Lockheed Martin, with just a five-week head start, has completed 60 percent of LCS 3, compared to Austal, whose LCS 4 is only 26 percent complete.
We hear Lockheed recently attached the bow to the rest of the ship. Given how close the competition is between Lockheed and the Amero-Australian shipbuilder, the bigger company's ability to produce ships with greater speed and fewer delays might raises questions in the minds of U.S. Navy officials about Austal's ability to regularly deliver ships.
Lockheed Martin is building a more conventional single-hulled steel ship in contrast to Austal's innovative aluminum-hulled trimaran. We hear that the Navy is finding it difficult to find enough aluminum welders to repair the Austal ships and that the company may be facing technical challenges with the welding. We asked General Dynamics, which remains prime for LCS4 although Austal builds the ships, if they would still be able to finish their ship on time given that they are only 26 percent complete so far, and we did not receive a reply.
In a briefing for investors, Austal disclosed the percentage of work done on LCS 4. For those who check out the briefing bear in mind that, although it says the ship won’t be finished until "late 2012," that’s not what it seems to mean. We thought the company was much further behind but a company spokesman said the paper was produced for investors and that it refers to Austal's "fiscal operating year which runs from July through June." So the ship is still on track for delivery in June 2012.