Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) has cut the first steel on the first Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ship for Saudi Arabia.

The steel cutting ceremony was held on 24 October and marked the start of construction of the ship.

FMM is building the MMSC under the US Navy’s foreign military sales (FMS) programme.

The new surface combatant ship is based on the Freedom-class littoral combat ship.

US Navy International Small Combatants Program Office (PMS 525) programme manager Todd Tompkins said: “In this shipyard that has produced so many US Navy Freedom-variant littoral combat ships, the MMSC is the first ship based on an LCS variant to be built for a foreign partner.

“This event marks the culmination of years of collaboration between our countries.”

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the programme and FMM is its shipyard partner.

The two firms have been working with the navy on the design of the MMSC. The programme involves the construction of four MMSC ships at FMM.

HMS Saud is the first MMSC of the Royal Saudi Navy. Saudi Arabia is procuring the vessels to modernise the navy’s eastern fleet.

The ceremony was attended by officials from the US Navy, Lockheed Martin, FMM and Royal Saudi Naval Forces.

The ship will feature the COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System.

The US Government approved the sale of four MMSC ships and related equipment to the Kingdom as part of an $11.25bn deal.