Work on the US Navy's 11th and final San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship LPD 27 has started at Huntington Ingalls Industries' (HII) shipbuilding division.
Ingalls LPD programme vice president Doug Lounsberry said: "Lessons learned and production improvements from all the previous LPDs have been incorporated into LPD 26 and are being rolled over into LPD 27."
Under the $1.5bn contract awarded recently to HII for detail design and construction of the LPD 27, fabrication work will be followed by keel laying currently scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2013.
With a displacement capacity of 24,900t, the 684ft-long, 105ft-wide San Antonio-class ship can accommodate 800 troops and provide combat support for the US Navy and US Marine Corps.
The frigate will be able to carry two Sikorsky CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters, six Bell AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, four Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two Boeing Bell MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft on its flight deck.
In addition, the vessel will feature enhanced fighting capabilities, such as advanced command-and-control suite, and increased lift-capabilities for carrying vehicles cargo. It will also help transport combat and support elements of marine expeditionary units and brigades.
Under the LPD 17 programme, the ships will replace the US navy's ageing LST 1179 Newport-class tank landing ships, LKA 113 Charleston-class amphibious cargo ships, and the Anchorage-class dock landing ships (LSD 36), as well as Austin-class ships (LPD 4).
The navy has received six of 11 LPDs to date, while the remaining vessels are currently under different stages of construction.
Delivery of the new vessel is scheduled for mid-2017.
Image: Ingalls Shipbuilding employees during the LPD 27 Start of Fabrication ceremony. Photo: courtesy Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.