The US Navy will christen the recently launched fourth Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Coronado, on 14 January 2012 at Austal‘s Mobile facility in Alabama, US.

The launch and christening follows a $3.5bn contract awarded to Austal to build and deliver an additional ten LCSs to join USS Independence (LCS 2), which was commissioned in January 2010. Designated as LCS 4, the automated and networked surface combatant vessel will undergo final outfitting and activation at Austal’s facility before preparing to perform sea trials.

The 127m-long, high-speed, highly manoeuvrable combat ship has a full-load displacement of 2,637t, an operational range of 4,300nm and can cruise at a speed of 40 knots. The LCS programme aims to fill the critical, urgent operational war-fighting requirements gaps that currently exist in the navy to defeat littoral threats and provide access and dominance in coastal waters.

The ships are designed to support launch and recovery operations of manned and unmanned vehicles and can execute specific missions such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare. The vessels are also capable of countering piracy and drug-trafficking in shallow coastal waters and providing humanitarian relief.

The US Navy intends to procure a total of 55 LCSs for multi-mission support to establish and maintain its dominance in the littorals and sea lanes of communication choke points around the world. Austal is building the Independence-class aluminum trimaran LCSs while Lockheed Martin is constructing the Freedom-class semi-planing monohull ships.

Delivery of the vessels to the US Navy is scheduled to take place in June 2012.