- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula will build a seventh National Security Cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard.

The $497 million contract was announced Monday in a news release from U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Cochran said the Department of Homeland Security is amending an existing contract with Ingalls to provide fiscal year 2014 appropriations to construct NSC 7.

Ingalls NSC Program Manager Jim French tells The Mississippi Press (http://bit.ly/1fJxOXo ) construction will start in January 2015.

“Each ship is built more effectively and more affordably than the one before it and this is due to the hard work of our shipbuilders who are implementing efficient build plans and bringing our learning curve down as each ship is delivered,” French said.

Ingalls has delivered the first three of eight planned cutters. Bertholf (WMSL 750), Waesche (WMSL 751) and Stratton (WMSL 752) are in service.

Hamilton (WMSL 753) is 81 percent complete, with delivery slated for later this year, and Joshua James (WMSL 754) is 52 percent complete and will launch in April.

Workers began construction on Munro (WMSL 755) late last year, and it is scheduled for launch in the fourth quarter of 2015.

This seventh ship, Kimball (WMSL 756), is scheduled for delivery in 2018.

The 418-foot ships are the Coast Guard’s newest class of technologically advanced cutters. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days and a crew of 110.

The Legend-class ships, which are replacing the 378-foot Hamilton-class cutters of the 1960s, can be used for a multitude of tasks, including drug interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental protection and national defense missions.

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Information from: The Mississippi Press, http://www.gulflive.com