Austal USA has received authorization from the Navy to commence construction on the first of up to 10 103-meter Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV), the company reported.

After Austal successfully completed the Production Readiness Review and necessary Pentagon approvals were obtained, the Navy authorized Austal’s Mobile, Ala., facility to immediately begin fabrication of Fortitude (JHSV-1), the company said.

“The ship’s design maturity and readiness, the availability of materials and components, and the shipbuilder’s ability to successfully start fabrication were all closely evaluated,” the Navy said yesterday. “Following the review, the Navy granted authorization for the company to begin construction.”

JHSV will provide rapid intra-theater deployment/transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies. The vessel will support military logistics, sustainment and humanitarian relief operations and will be capable of speeds up to 43 knots, according to Austal.

The JHSV program is procuring high-speed transport vessels for the Army and the Navy.

Austal was selected as prime contractor in November 2008 to design and build the first JHSV, with options for nine additional vessels expected to be exercised between fiscal year ’09 and FY ’13, the company said.

Fortitude will be the first Austal design to be constructed using the new procedures and processes developed in conjunction with Austal’s recently-competed Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF). The MMF provides Austal with assembly line efficiency, resulting in significant cost savings and reduced lead times, the company said.

The Austal JHSV will transport medium-size operational units with their vehicles, or reconfigure to provide troop transport for an infantry battalion, allowing units to transit long distances while maintaining unit integrity. The vessel also supports helicopter operations and has an off-load vehicle ramp which enables use of austere piers and quay walls, common in developing countries. A shallow draft (under 4 meters) will further enhance theater port access, according to Austal.

The Austal JHSV team includes platform systems engineering agent General Dynamics [GD] Advanced Information Systems, which is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s electronic systems.

Austal USA is also currently building two 127-meter Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the Navy, with the first, Independence (LCS-2), scheduled for completion by the end of the year.