NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Huntington Ingalls hosted a ceremonial first-cut-of-steel event Thursday to kick off construction of the new aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN 80) at Newport News Shipbuilding.
The ship's sponsors, Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky, attended the event and said how they are so grateful for those who serve our country.
There were shipbuilders, local officials and members of the U.S. Navy who also attended.
"We are always excited to watch the Olympians, but I had a chance to tell the shipbuilders the Olympians are excited to see what you will do everyday," said Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin.
The Enterprise will be the third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier. The flagship USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was built at Newport News Shipbuilding and delivered to the Navy in July. Construction has been underway on the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) since 2015, with a commissioning expected for 2020.
"We're excited to see the progress and to attend the other ceremonies that they'll have," Biles said.
The Enterprise will be the ninth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. It's the Navy aircraft carrier since the Kitty Hawk-class USS America to not be named for a person.
"Young kids always say you're a hero or they look to a sports figure as heroes, but I always say you know the people that serve our country? They're the real heroes," said Ledecky.
The former USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was also built at Newport News Shipbuilding and the world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The ship was last homeported in Norfolk before being deactivated in December 2012. She was officially decommissioned in January 2017.
Some of the steel from the USS Enterprise is being recycled to be used in the construction of the new Enterprise.
The ship is scheduled to go into the fleet in nine years.