The U.S. Army’s next-generation landing craft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), celebrated a naval tradition with the keel-laying ceremony to bring good luck for the shipbuilders and future crew members.
A keel-laying ceremony took place Monday for the first of a new class of Army watercraft, according to a recent Army News Service news release. The new Army’s watercraft will expand commanders’ movement and maneuver options in support of unified land operations.
The Army chief of transportation and other officials attended the ceremony at the Vigor shipbuilding facility near Portland, Oregon. Vigor has been awarded a 10-year contract to construct up to 36 of the new watercraft. The current Army objective is to build 13, officials said.
The MSV(L) will replace the Landing Craft Mechanized-8, a Vietnam-era watercraft that is unable to transport some of today’s equipment due to the weight of modern combat vehicles, according to the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support.
The new watercraft will not only have an increased payload capability compared to the LCM-8, but also an improved draft for better access to waterways, along with increased speed and maneuverability, according to PEO CS&CSS.
“Beginning a new class of boats is truly something worth celebrating as we lay the keel for the Army’s first class of digital vessels,” said Timothy Goddette, the Army’s program executive officer for CS&CSS.
“The entire team is doing a terrific job keeping the program on track, on schedule and within budget,” Goddette said at the ceremony. He was referring to the program management team for Army Watercraft Systems, the Army transportation corps, the Army acquisition community and industry partners gathered for the keel laying.
The first MSV(L) prototype is expected to be delivered to the Army in just over a year. A low-rate initial production decision on the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) is expected in the third quarter of fiscal year 2021, officials said.
The overall length of the vessel will be 117 feet. It will have a speed of 21 knots when laden with cargo and 30 knots when empty. Its range will be 360 nautical miles when fully loaded.
It will have three 2,600-horsepower MTU 2000 engines, three 750 MJP waterjets and three 65kW generators. The vessel’s payload will be 82 short tons, which means it can haul one M1 Abrams tank or two Stryker combat vehicles or four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.
The plan is for the MSV(L) to have a crew of eight Army mariners.