Top Navy and Marine Corps brass toured key US shipyards on Monday, March 4, signaling a unified push to bolster America’s maritime capabilities.

In a bold move that smacked of unity and a gritty determination to up the ante on America’s sea power, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and the Marine Corps’ own Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney hit the deck with a tour through the heart of our shipbuilding muscle—Austal USA, Ingalls Shipbuilding, and Bollinger Mississippi Shipbuilding.

This wasn’t just a courtesy call; it was a loud and clear message that when it comes to defending our waters, we’re not playing games.

Into the Heart of Shipbuilding

Franchetti and Mahoney recently visited these state-of-the-art shipyards, inspecting firsthand the sweat, steel, and sparks that forge our amphibious ships and surface combatants. The kind of gear that puts a hefty punch in the phrase “decisive warfighting advantage.”

In a press release report, Franchetti laid out America’s aim of keeping our fleet not just afloat but primed for action.

With an eye on beefing up our amphibious fleet to a solid 31, she didn’t mince words about needing a tight ship, pun intended, between Congress, the industry, and our Navy team to make it happen.

shipyard visit
Senior officials recently traveled to the Gulf Coast for a Shipbuilding visit on March 4, 2024 (Image source: DVIDS)

Mahoney was right there, talking about these shipbuilders and how they serve as the backbone of our national defense.

The Marine Corps General had also spotlighted amphibious warfare ships as the real MVPs in the strategic playbook.

The Backbone of National Defense

Littoral Combat Ships: A Global Force

The big wigs’ stop in Austal USA, wasn’t just a walk in the park. It was a close-up on the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)—those swift, multi-tasking heavy lifters of the sea.

Austal USA, headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, has been a key player in the American shipbuilding industry since 1994. The company specializes in the design, construction, and maintenance of high-speed aluminum vessels, primarily for the US Navy and Coast Guard.

Through the years, the company has delivered numerous LCS vessels, including USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Mobile (LCS 26), and USS Canberra (LCS 30).

USS Canberra
USS Canberra sails underway in the Pacific Ocean (Image source: DVIDS)

These vessels have become known for their speed and maneuverability, which are crucial for operations in shallow coastal waters.

Franchetti pointed to their global punch, from surface warfare to mine-sweeping and playing mother hen to unmanned surface vessels.

The Dawn of Unmanned Maritime Systems

Speaking of unmanned vehicles, the duo didn’t hesitate to give a nod to the technology that’s set to redefine the game.

The Saildrone Surveyor and its kin are about to add some serious edge to our surveillance and reconnaissance missions, not to mention beef up our mine countermeasures.

Saildrone Inc., a California-based company founded in 2012, is a pioneer in uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), also known as drones. These innovative vessels are powered by wind and the sun, making them eco-friendly and cost-effective for long-duration missions at sea.

unmanned surface vessel
Saildrone Explorer (Image source: DVIDS)

The company has gained recognition for its innovative Saildrone Explorer, an unmanned sailing vehicle designed for long-range data collection and surveillance missions. The unmanned vessel SD 1045, part of the Saildrone Explorer class, made a groundbreaking journey by spending an entire day in the heart of Category 4 Hurricane Sam. Amidst this powerful storm, it collected unprecedented video evidence and weather data, recording winds at an extraordinary strength of nearly 110 knots (over 126 mph). This feat set a new world record for the highest wind speed recorded by an unmanned maritime vehicle, as recognized in the latest Guinness World Records edition for 2024.

To quote Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins, “This record is a testament to the unique endurance of the Saildrone platform. We are proud to have engineered a vehicle capable of operating in the most extreme weather conditions on earth to deliver data that can help to advance understanding of these powerful storms and protect our coastal communities.”

Initially, these were developed for environmental research and maritime data collection but eventually evolved to cater to security and national defense, such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW), ISR missions (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), and search and rescue.

Amphibious Warfare Ships: Versatile Giants

Ingalls Shipbuilding served up a feast for the eyes with the pre-commissioning units USS Richard M. McCool Jr. (LPD 29) and USS Bougainville (LHA 8).

Amphibious warfare ships that stand as a testament to versatility, ready to command the high seas and flex with both manned and unmanned capabilities.

Ingalls Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), is a historic American shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, established in 1938. It has a long and distinguished history of building warships for the US Navy.

Franchetti threw some well-earned kudos to the McCool crew for acing their Builder’s Trials, with Mahoney tipping his hat to the shipbuilders, sailors, and Marines driving our readiness to confront whatever the ocean throws at us.

Technological Advancements and Naval Firepower

But it wasn’t all about the hardware.

The visit was peppered with talks on hypersonic missiles and the latest naval firepower.

Yet, beyond the tech and the steel, what really shone through was the drive for naval integration, for a unified front that’s nimble, lethal, and ready to face the challenges of tomorrow’s seascape.

“This is the future right here,” said Franchetti. “DDG 1000, with technology upgrades including the integration of the Conventional Prompt Strike weapon system, is quite an engineering feat and ensures Zumwalt remains one of the most technologically advanced and lethal ships in the US Navy.”

Sailing into the Future

In the end, it’s clear. With the resolve of our Navy and Marine Corps, powered by the genius and grit of our shipbuilders and backed by unwavering support from the corridors of power, we’re not just ready for the future. We’re stepping into it with our eyes wide open, ready to defend, deter, and dominate the world’s oceans.

It’s about innovation, integration, and, above all, an iron-clad commitment to keeping America’s maritime legacy untouchable.