US Navy lays keel for USS Charleston littoral combat ship

The U.S. Navy laid the keel for the nation’s 18th littoral combat ship, the USS Charleston (LCS 18), at Austal’s shipyard in Alabama, USA.

Congressman Bradley Byrne, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, welded his initials onto a steel plate during a ceremony held on June 28.

Austal’s LCS program delivered USS Independence (LCS 2) in 2009, USS Coronado (LCS 4) in 2013, and USS Jackson (LCS 6) in 2015. Most recently, the shipbuilder delivered USS Montgomery (LCS 8) to the U.S. Navy on June 23 and the USNS Carson City expeditionary fast transport on June 24.

Six additional LCS are under construction at the Mobile, Ala. shipyard. Montgomery (LCS 8) and Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) are preparing for builders trials later this year. Omaha (LCS 12) was christened Dec. 19, and Manchester (LCS 14) will complete final assembly and prepare for launch later this year. Modules for Charleston (LCS 18) are under construction as well.

Austal is building the Independence-variant of the littoral combat ships while Lockheed Martin is in charge of building the navy’s Freedom-variant version. The Austal-built version has a trimaran hull with the largest flight deck of any current US Navy surface combatant, as the company says. The ships’ hangar bay is able to hold two MH-60 helicopters.