PASCAGOULA, Miss., May 31 (UPI) -- Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi has started construction on the U.S. Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, the USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).
"This is a significant milestone for Ingalls Shipbuilding and for the U.S. Navy," said Doug Lounsberry, vice president, LPD program. "It is the first ship we've started with the Ingalls name and it will become the 10th ship in the class.
"Our shipbuilders are highly motivated to begin construction on this ship and we look forward to delivering the most efficiently built LPD to date."
The company was recently awarded a $1.5 billion contract to build the USS San Antonio-class ship at the Pascagoula facility.
The start of fabrication shipbuilding means 100 tons of steel have been cut and fabricated. The steel is cut by a robotic plasma arc cutting machine at Ingalls' steel fabrication complex. The next milestone for LPD 26 will be the ship's keel laying, scheduled for the first quarter of 2012.
LPD 26 is scheduled to be launched in the third quarter of 2014 and delivered to the Navy in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Eleven San Antonio class are being built for the Navy.
The ships are 684 feet long and 105 feet wide and displace approximately 25,000 tons. Their principal mission is to deploy the combat and support elements of Marine Expeditionary Units and Brigades.
The ships can carry up to 800 troops and have the capability of transporting and debarking air cushion or conventional landing craft, augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey.
Ingalls Shipbuilding is a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, which was spun off as a new corporation by Northrop Grumman earlier this year.