General Dynamics‘ [GD] Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the Independence (LCS-2), completed testing of her main propulsion system in advance of builder’s trials planned for this summer, the company reported.

All components of the combined diesel and gas turbine main propulsion system that drive the ship’s four independent steerable water jets have been tested. The two diesel engines, two gas turbine engines, and four water jets are operational and all four propulsion shafts have been successfully rotated. The four ship’s service diesel generators were successfully brought on-line in earlier testing, Austal USA said.

General Dynamics is building Independence at Austal USA’s Mobile, Ala., shipyard.

The ship will soon undergo a series of dockside tests before going to sea for builder’s trials, according to General Dynamics.

"We will continue to perform system activation, testing and integration efforts over the next several weeks, but with this milestone under our belts, everyone is looking forward to taking in the lines and putting Independence through its paces in the Gulf of Mexico," Jeff Geiger, president of Bath Iron Works, said.

The main propulsion systems operates on two MTU 9,100kW 20V 8000 M71 propulsion diesel engines and the two 22,000kW General Electric [GE] LM2500 gas turbine engines.

The diesels are considered the highest power high-speed diesel engines in the world, delivering up to 12,200 bhp (9,100 kW) of continuous power, according to Austal USA.

The GE LM2500 gas turbines each develop 29,500 bhp (22,000kW) and are the standard workhorse engines installed in almost all the U.S. Navy surface combatant ships. More than 750 of these gas turbines power the Navy’s fleet of surface combatants, according to Austal.

"Austal USA continues to establish its rightful place as one of the world’s premium shipbuilders. The successful achievement of this major milestone is another example of Austal’s commitment to the LCS program’s goal of completing sea trials and delivering the LCS-2 to the Navy as quickly as possible," Joe Rella, president and chief operating officer of Austal USA, said.

Key features of the all-aluminum trimaran include a large, below-deck open mission bay with a high payload capacity, enabling the ship to carry equipment and personnel for a variety of missions. Independence‘s large flight deck will support near-simultaneous operation of two SH-60 helicopters or multiple unmanned vehicles. The ultra-stable trimaran hull also allows for flight operations in high sea conditions, according to General Dynamics.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is the prime contractor for Independence. Along with Austal USA, partners on LCS-2 include: BAE Systems; General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems; L-3 Communications [LLL]; Maritime Applied Physics Corp.; and Northrop Grumman [NOC].

The Independence’s main engine light off closely follows the recent contract award to Austal USA for design and build of the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) for both the Army and Navy. Initial Critical Design Review for JHSV was completed in April and the team is anticipating the Final Critical Design Review in September 2009. Austal, as a part of the General Dynamics team, was also recently awarded the contract to build Coronado (LCS-4).