The US Navy has awarded a contract to Alcoa to design and develop advanced welding techniques to reduce manufacturing costs on aluminum-intensive ships.

Under the contract, the company will adapt high-deposition gas metal arc welding technology to marine structures that will help in reducing the cost of shipbuilding for the US Navy.

Alcoa executive vice president and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Ray Kilmer said that the company will enable ship builders to streamline manufacturing and build a better ship at a lower cost, which is a critical advantage to the Navy.

Alcoa Public and Government Affairs vice president Daniel Cruise said with tightening government budgets and growing demands, the project plays an important role in helping naval personnel to meet their mission requirements.

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"Alcoa’s Government Affairs, Alcoa Technical Center and Alcoa Defense teams are working together to make sure key leaders in government understand Alcoa’s advantage in research and our manufacturing expertise," Cruise added.

The company claims that under current US shipbuilding plans, the total projected savings for the navy could be $200m.

The welding technology is a semi-automated welding process that is used to improve weld quality while reducing labour costs and weld passes.

The semi-automated welding process will be initially implemented to the Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) following which it will be later transferred to the Navy’s joint high speed vessel (JHSV) and other aluminum-intensive ships.

Austal is constructing JHSVs as part of a contract awarded in November 2008, with options to build nine additional vessels between 2009 and 2013 worth over $1.6bn.

Independence-class aluminum trimaran LCSs are also being built by Austal for the US Navy under a $3.5bn contract, while the Lockheed team, including Marinette Marine Corporation (MMC), will construct ten Freedom-class semi-planing monohull ships.