Vigor has officially kicked off construction on the next generation of landing watercraft for the U.S. Army at its new aluminum fabrication facility in Vancouver, Washington.
A keel laying ceremony for the vessel, to be named SSG Elroy F. Wells, was held Monday attending by representatives from the U.S. Army, federal and local elected officials, and Vigor employees.
The nearly dollar contract to build the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), or MSV(L), was awarded to Vigor in October, 2017. The contract calls for one prototype vessel, four vessels under low rate production, and up to thirty two additional vessels over ten years for use by Army Mariners.
The design of the MSV(L) was developed in partnership with BMT and is said to dramatically improve on the capabilities of the current LCM-8. It features an innovative tribow monohull that helps with seakeeping, beached stability and speeds in excess of 20 knots fully laden. A raised center jet and 4 foot (1.2 meter) draft fully laden enable landings on even the shallowest beaches.
Vigor said the ceremonial weld marked not only the start of the MSV(L) program but also the beginning of a new era in shipbuilding at Vigor’s recently acquired state-of-the-art all Aluminum Fabrication facility in Vancouver.
Vigor expects the site to employ up to 400 workers by 2023 building high performance military craft, workboats and aluminum fast ferries in addition to MSV(L).
Once the SSG Elroy F. Wells has been completed and full tested, the schedule calls for four MSV(L) vessels in the Low Rate Production phase, followed by up to 32 vessels once Full Rate Production is underway.
Construction of the first MSV(L) comes as the Army earlier this year decided to deactivate and divest the majority of its watercraft and maritime capabilities, including numerous vessels, watercraft equipment, watercraft systems, soldiers, and units. In July, nearly half of the service’s watercraft were up for auction on the General Services Administration website, including a majority of its 35 Landing Craft Utility (LCU) vessels, known as the workhorse of the Army’s watercraft capability. The sell-off has since been put on hold and is now under review.
The first MSV(L) prototype is named in honor of SSG Elroy F. Wells, an Army watercraft operator killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Vigor’s MSV(L) team consists of partners that include BMT, Gladding-Hearn and Northrop Grumman.