Vigor Industrial has laid the keel for the first next-generation landing craft being built for the US Army.

The keel-laying ceremony of the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) (MSV(L)) was attended by Vigor and US Army representatives.

Vigor won the ten-year $979.39m contract in October 2017 to build the MSV(L). The landing craft will replace the Army’s ageing LCM-8 Mike boats.

The company is developing the prototype for the boat under the first phase of the programme.

The prototype is named after SSG Elroy F Wells, a US Army watercraft operator who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1970.

Vigor will move to the low-rate production phase of four vessels once testing of the prototype is completed.

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A further 32 boats will be built in the Full Rate Production phase.

Vigor Industrial said in a statement: “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-aluminium fabrication facility in Vancouver.

“Vigor expects the site to employ up to 400 workers by 2023 building high-performance military craft, workboats and aluminium fast ferries in addition to MSV(L).”

The company’s partners in the programme include BMT, Gladding-Hearn and Northrop Grumman.

Vigor developed the MSV(L) design in collaboration with BMT. The design will improve the capabilities of the current LCM-8 boats.

The 35.6m-long MSV(L) features a tribow monohull configuration and can achieve a top speed of 20k.

The boat is for use by army mariners and provides a range of more than 360nm. It also offers manoeuvre options in anti-access environments.