Austal Weathers Challenges, Hopes for Stability

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — There could be changes down the road for Austal USA, but nothing the company isn’t prepared for according to President Craig Perciavalle.

Just last week the Navy issued a ‘Request for Information’ from various companies in relation to its frigate fleet.  The Navy wants well-armed frigates and Perciavalle says the littoral combat ships built at Austal in Mobile fit the bill.  Critics have said the weak point of the LCS is its lack of armament, but Perciavalle says the company has long maintained that whatever the Navy wants to put on the ship, they could do.

That includes a vertical-launch missile system or VLS, and Perciavalle says Austal is ahead of the curve.  Austal has already shown plans where VLS can be fitted into the existing LCS platform with little-added cost and no major redesigns of the ship.

But the company is also facing another hurdle, this one in Congress.  The Senate Armed Service Committee has recommended its version of the National Defense Authorization Act to the full Senate.  It calls for funding only one LCS in the fiscal year 2018.

But Representative Bradley Byrne says the magic number is ‘3.’  That’s what the House version of the NDAA calls for.  Byrne says building three ships a year maintains efficiencies at the plants, keeps the cost per ship lower and maintains stable employment.

Byrne says he’ll continue to lobby members of the Senate and that includes Alabama Senator Luther Strange, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee and voted for the Senate version of the funding bill.

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