USS Manchester (LCS 14)

The US Navy has achieved a milestone in the construction of its fifth Independence variant littoral combat ships USS Manchester (LCS 14) following a keel-laying ceremony held at Austal USA facility.

Austal is responsible for building ten LCSs for the US Navy under a $3.5bn block-buy contract awarded in 2010.

The latest development marks the beginning of the vessels final assembly. Austal has already moved nineteen modules from its module manufacturing facility (MMF) to the final assembly bay in their pre-launch position.

Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle said: "With 19 modules of Manchester already erected, and the christening of Gabrielle Giffords just a few short weeks ago, it’s exciting to see just how well the LCS programme is maturing here.

"This milestone would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Austal’s talented design and production team."

The company said the remaining 18 modules will be ready over the coming months.

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"It’s exciting to see just how well the LCS programme is maturing here."

The US Navy’s LCS programme aims to fill gaps in the critical, urgent operational war-fighting requirements that currently exist in the navy to defeat littoral threats, and provide access and dominance in coastal waters.

The LCS-class consists of the Freedom and Independence variants, which are developed by two industry teams led by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics (GD), respectively. Austal USA, along with Bath Iron Works, is part of the team led by GD.

Austal delivered USS Independence (LCS 2) in 2009 and USS Coronado (LCS 4) in 2013, while seven additional LCS are under construction at its shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

Recently, the US Navy christened its tenth LCS, future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), at Alabama shipyard.

Image: Officials during the keel-laying ceremony of USS Manchester. Photo: courtesy of Austal.