The Navy awarded Austal USA a $128 million contract for the detail design and construction of one Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock Medium (AFDM).

The company underscored this is its second steel vessel program for the Navy as it ramps up production of steel products, expanding from aluminum naval vessels. Austal has traditionally built the aluminum Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships and Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport for the Navy. 

The contract announcement said the contract also covers crew familiarization, packaging and delivery, production data package, vehicle bridge design, vehicle bridge construction, and delivery and wingwall portal cranes. The award includes options for vendor recommended spares and special studies that, if exercised, would increase the total value to $128.15 million. 

Work will largely occur at Austal’s shipyard in Mobile, Ala., and is expected to be finished by August 2025.

“Combined with our contract for the T-ATS [towing, salvage and rescue ship] program, the AFDM award is evidence of our expanding capability and focus on delivering a diverse portfolio of solutions to our customers, from combatants to dry docks.  We are looking forward to providing the U.S. Navy with an exceptional floating dry dock using our lean manufacturing approach,” Rusty Murdaugh, Austal USA president, said in a statement.

The new Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ships will be the first type of steel naval vessels the company makes for the service, with this dry dock the second type. The Navy first awarded Austal a $130 million modification to exercise an option for two Austal USA T-ATS ships in 2021 (Defense Daily, Oct. 5, 2021).

The new AFDM will be built at the company’s new steel panel line in Mobile. Austal said the dry dock had a design that incorporates features to improve operability and maintainability “based on the company’s experience and lessons learned from owning, operating, and maintaining a similar dry dock at its repair facility at Austal West Campus.”

Austal said this dry dock is a Rennie”-type floating dry dock and will have the capacity to lift 18,000 long tons and a clear deck working area of 90,800 square feet. It will overall be 694 feet long, a pontoon breadth of 157 feet and be 65 feet high from baseline to wing deck.

The Navy said this contract was competitively procured with two offers received, but did not disclose the other competitor, which it normally does not name. Bollinger Shipyards was potentially the other competitor as it has won contracts in recent years to build floating dry docks and similar products.

Last year, Bollinger Shipyards delivered an Ocean Transport Barge to General Dynamics’ Electric Boat [GD] at its Groton, Conn., shipyard to support building and maintaining Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and Virginia-class attack submarines (Defense Daily, Dec. 13, 2021).

In 2020, GD Electric Boat also awarded Bollinger a contract to build a new floating dry dock to support Columbia-class construction and is expected to be delivered in 2024 (Defense Daily, Sept. 17, 2020).