VT Halter Marine – a company of ST Engineering North America – is one of four shipyards to have been awarded US Naval Sea Systems Command contracts for the programme design study phase of the Navy’s Common Hull Auxiliary Mission Platform (CHAMP) programme. The other three organisations, each of which was awarded a contract of nearly $2.9 million (€2.6 million), are Bollinger Shipyards, General Dynamics NASSCO and Philly Shipyard.
CHAMP is a programme initiated by the US Navy (USN) in 2018 to find a replacement for several types of auxiliary vessels now approaching the ends of their service lives – hospital ships, command and control ships, submarine tender and aviation logistics ships and sealift vessels. Demand for CHAMP vessels, according to observers close to the programme, could exceed 60 vessels.
The current four design studies will last into 2022, with all four shipyards expected to compete for detail design and construction (DD&C) contracts in 2023. Construction is currently anticipated to last for up to a decade thereafter but there is intense unofficial speculation that there will be a requirement to accelerate the process, with some emerging commentary suggesting the first vessel could be acquired as early as 2021.
The award to VT Halter comes close on the heels of a USN $745 million award for construction of a Polar Security Cutter – the first heavy icebreaker built for the US Coast Guard in the last 40 years.