A keel-laying ceremony to build the first of the US Army’s 13 ordered new class of watercraft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), was held last week, by shipbuilder Vigor Industrial.
The company has been awarded a 10-year contract to construct up to 36 of the new boats. The current Army objective is to build 13, officials said.
The first MSV(L) prototype is expected to be delivered to the Army in just over a year. A low-rate initial production decision on the boat is expected in the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. It will replace the Landing Craft Mechanized-8, a Vietnam-era watercraft that is unable to transport some of today's equipment due to the weight of modern combat vehicles.
The new boat will not only have an increased payload capability compared to the LCM-8, but also an improved draft for better access to waterways, along with increased speed and maneuverability, according to the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Combat Support and Combat Service Support.
Army watercraft enables commanders to deliver combat-configured equipment with personnel, vehicles and sustainment cargo, through fixed, degraded and austere ports, inland waterways, remote and unimproved beaches and coastlines for missions across the spectrum of military operations.
The Army's strategy for the MSV(L) is to integrate mature commercial off-the-shelf subsystems into a new hull form, which takes advantage of the marine industry design innovation and competition, officials said.
They said the vessel's improved maneuverability and surveillance capability will better equip it to operate in inter-coastal areas, rivers and inland waterways and in anti-access/area-denial environments.
The overall length of the vessel will be 117 feet. It will have a speed of 21 knots when laden with cargo and 30 knots when empty. Its range will be 360 nautical miles when fully loaded.
It will have three 2,600-horsepower MTU 2000 engines, three 750 MJP waterjets and three 65kW generators. The vessel's payload will be 82 short tons, which means it can haul one M1 Abrams tank or two Stryker combat vehicles or four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.
The plan is for the MSV(L) to have a crew of eight Army mariners.