The Navy awarded Austal USA a $145 million modification on Sept. 30 for the detail design and construction of two

Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ships, T-ATS-11 and 12.

The award notice was posted on Oct. 5. It said this contract modification also establishes options for up to three more ships that, if exercised, would raise the order value to $385 million.

Work will mostly be split between Mobile, Ala. (54 percent), and Chesapeake, Va. (20 percent). 

The Navy is procuring new towing, salvage and rescue ships to replace the current fleet of four T-ATF 166 class fleet tugs and four T-ARS 50 class salvage ships, which are due to reach the end of their expected service lives in 2020 and 2025, respectively. The new Navajo-class ships will have a common hull that performs the missions of both older classes.

Last year, the Navy awarded Gulf Island Shipyards, now owned by Bollinger Shipyards, a $130 million modification to exercise options to build two Navajo-class T-ATS ships. Gulf Island Shipyards was the original contractor for the new T-ATS class (Defense Daily, March 27, 2020).

However, the Navy’s FY ’22 budget documents said that “due to yard capacity and schedule challenges, the Navy has elected to not award the final three ship options to Gulf Island Shipyards.”

In the documents, the Navy said it intends to enter sole source negotiations with Austal for the remaining ships “to assist in the transition to a steel capable shipyard.”

In a statement, the Navy said this award builds on the Defense Department’s previous investment in Austal USA under the Defense Production Act “to support development of its steel shipbuilding capability.”

It added that these T-ATS vessels will be the first steel ships Austal USA builds.

The budget request documents said the Navy expected the contracts for T-ATS 11 and 12 to be awarded in September and take 38 months and 43 months from contract award to delivery, respectively. 

T-ATS 11 is due to be delivered by November 2024, with T-ATS 12 following in April 2026.

The documents said the Navy plans to issue contracts for the next ships, T-ATS 13 and 14, in March 2022 and have them both delivered in 2025.