Austal USA has been awarded a $71.7m contract for the manufacture and delivery of a fifth Navajo-class towing, salvage, and rescue ship (T-ATS 15) to the US Navy (USN), which will conduct a range of fleet operations including the towing of heavy vessels, where necessary.

The Australian shipbuilder describes the T-ATS as an ocean-going tug, salvage, and rescue ship, formed around a multi-mission common hull platform. The ships can support a variety of missions, including oil spill response, humanitarian assistance, search and rescue, and surveillance.

With the award, announced on 18 June, the Austal USA is now under contract for five T-ATS, having received awards for T-ATS 13 and 14 in July 2022 and T-ATS 11 and 12 in October 2021.

The $71m contract for the fifth T-ATS vessel represents a slight reduction in unit costs compared to T-ATS 13 and T-ATS 14, which were awarded in a combined deal valued at $151.1m.

Construction is due to commence on T-ATS 13 and 14 in the second half of 2023, while T-ATS 15 is scheduled to commence build in the first half of 2024, with the delivery planned in late 2027. The build will begin at the company’s steel production facility in Mobile, Alabama.

According to the contract announcement for T-ATS 13 and T-ATS 14, it appears that the programme timelines has been sped up, with the T-ATS 15 build now taking the slot of T-ATS 14, which in turn has moved from H1 2024 build commencement to H2 2023.

Delivery of T-ATS 13 is scheduled to take place in H2 of 2025, while the second vessel will be handed over by H1 2026.

In addition to T-ATS, Austal USA is currently constructing the USN’s Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships and Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ships and has commenced construction of a 211m Auxiliary Floating Drydock (Medium).

In May 2023 Austal USA was awarded a contract for the detail design and construction of up to 7 steel T-AGOS ocean surveillance ships worth up to $3.2bn and in 2022, the company was awarded a contract for up to 11 Offshore Patrol Cutters for the United States Coast Guard, worth up to $3bn.