CNO, ACMC Travel to Gulf Coast for Shipbuilding Visit
5 Mar 2024

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps (ACMC) Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney visited Austal USA, Ingalls Shipbuilding and Bollinger Mississippi Shipbuilding, March 4, 2024, demonstrating the Navy and Marine Corps full integration and commitment to delivering warfighting advantage.

This visit gave Franchetti and Mahoney the opportunity to see first-hand the shipyards’ capability and capacity and to hear from senior leadership and skilled craftsmen from three major contractors supporting amphibious shipbuilding as well as other Navy surface combatants. Franchetti reiterated that the Navy’s goal of a ready and capable fleet includes 31 amphibious ships.

“I’m grateful for the partnership we have with Congress, with industry, and with our Navy team here that fields America’s Warfighting Navy,” said Franchetti. “The Gulf Coast shipbuilding industry is a vital part of our defense industrial base, building both manned and unmanned platforms. The investments we make in our industry partnerships is essential to putting more ready players on the field.”

Mahoney echoed Franchetti’s sentiment. “The men and women here in Pascagoula are critical to our national defense. These amphibious warfare ships provide our combatant commanders with the most versatile platform in the U.S. inventory and America’s strategic maritime advantage depends on the work they’re doing here today.”

While at Austal USA, CNO and ACMC toured the shipyard with stops at the newly constructed steel facility and aboard the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Kingsville (LCS 36). Franchetti discussed how Austal USA is playing a key role in putting LCS in the hands of Fleet Commanders who praise their versatility.

“The littoral combat ship is important to our Navy - these platforms have the capability to do multiple missions and we have a validated need for them,” said Franchetti. “Around the world today LCS is playing a valuable role in the surface warfare mission, and is expanding to support the mine countermeasures mission and unmanned surface vessel operations.”

CNO and ACMC were also able to view Austal USA’s construction of Saildrone “Surveyor” unmanned surface vessels. During the tour, Franchetti noted that unmanned systems have enormous potential to multiply the Navy and Marine Corps’ combat power by complementing forward-postured forces and the existing fleet of ships, connectors, submarines, and aircraft, especially in areas like maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, mine countermeasures operations, seabed exploration and carrier airwing support.

“Using unmanned assets helps put more players on the field by freeing up manned assets for more specific and important tasks,” said Franchetti. “It’s good to see high-tech industry partnering with the traditional shipbuilding industrial base to rapidly deliver cutting-edge products at scale.”

ACMC also took the opportunity to discuss technology as a critical enabler to maritime operations.

“I couldn’t agree more with the CNO when it comes to more players on the field,” said Mahoney. “We are at the brink of a new battlefield where uncrewed systems, at scale, will provide new levels of resilience and adaptability for our forces. Integrating Marines, Amphibious Warfare Ships, and Medium Landing Ships into that equation opens up some great advantages in competition and conflict. I join the CNO in advocating for continued integration between our two services and the joint force to optimize manned-unmanned teaming.”

While at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., CNO and ACMC toured the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock PCU Richard M. McCool Jr. (LPD 29) and the America-class amphibious assault ship PCU Bougainville (LHA 8). During the tour, ACMC noted the importance of amphibious warfare ships as multi-mission platforms, capable of providing command and control of forces as well as manned and unmanned capabilities.

CNO and ACMC also had the opportunity to address Navy civilians, shipyard and industry workers, and the crew of McCool over the ship’s Main Circuit. Franchetti congratulated the crew of McCool on their successful Builder’s Trials earlier this year and said she is looking forward to the ship’s commissioning later this year.

“You put your ship, the world's most capable amphibious warship ever built, on the path to success,” said Franchetti. “It's been just over two years since McCool launched, and because of each and every one of you, this ship will be ready and fiercely capable in this decisive decade and the many decades that follow, responding to any crisis that comes our way and delivering decisive combat power with our Marine Corps teammates.”

Mahoney also addressed the crew. “When you take the best American shipbuilders, and you add the best Sailors, and you add some angry Marines, you got the USS McCool. And then you have victory. When the time comes for us to put the boot on the throat of people who absolutely deserve it, McCool will be on the front lines. Much gratitude for this beautiful ship and for you putting your heart and soul into it.”

ACMC also noted that with embarked Marines, Amphibious Warfare ships offer an expeditionary strategic advantage that complements allies and partners and deters adversaries.

At Ingalls, CNO was also able to see the progress on the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Ted Stevens (DDG 128) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

Zumwalt arrived in Pascagoula last year for a two-year modernization period. Among the upgrades being added, the first-in-class destroyer is being outfitted with hypersonic missile tubes to take warfighting into the next generation. Hypersonic weapons, capable of flying at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), are highly maneuverable and operate at varying altitudes.

“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 U.S. Navy.”

This was Franchetti and Mahoney’s first combined visit to observe the Navy’s shipbuilding industry. Throughout the day, both leaders expressed the imperative to advance naval integration among the maritime services, and to synchronize and align warfighting efforts with the Joint Force.

They also noted how the Navy and Marine Corps continue to refine and exercise distributed maritime operations and littoral operations in contested environments - key aspects of the Navy and Marine Corps’ contribution to the National Defense Strategy and joint warfighting concept. They conducted the visit alongside Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Jerry Carl (R-AL).


Communication Directorate

Headquarters Marine Corps