The US capital’s politics are a mess, the Pentagon is muddled and observers might be excused for thinking that naval development is stalled. But out in the manufacturing yards that supply the US Navy with ships, the atmosphere is anything but quiet. Quite the contrary, from New England to Virginia to the Gulf Coast and elsewhere, shipyards have hired workers, expanded and improved facilities and — at least for now — are humming at near-full-rate production.
Key to this activity are the two major littoral programs, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV). While the future of the Navy’s planned 52-ship total LCS buy is in question, Lockheed Martin’s Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipbuilding partner and Austal USA in mid-December each launched the first ship of a 10-ship block buy contract, and the last of those ships won’t be delivered until after 2020. Austal is also cooking with the JHSV — the third ship of 10 is about to be delivered, and the fourth will soon hit the water.