NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Chief of Naval Operations is expressing confidence about a decision to purchase two Ford-class aircraft carriers at once.
Admiral John Richardson paid a visit to the USS Gerald R. Ford last week. The ship is currently in a year-long post-shakedown availability at Newport News Shipbuilding, the only place to build aircraft carriers for the Navy.
In January, the Navy and Huntington Ingalls, the parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding, agreed to terms for contract awarding the construction of two future Ford-class carriers at once.
The $15.2 billion contract modification covers detail design and construction of the future USS Enterprise, CVN 80, as well as CVN 81 which has not yet been named. The move is expected to save more than $4 billion across the program.
"I think it’s fantastic. First, we need these aircraft carriers out in the fleet. We need these new carriers out in the fleet with all the performance they are going to bring," Admiral Richardson said in an interview with News 3.
Admiral Richardson says he believes many of the issues that have plagued the development of the Ford-class program will be resolved well before the block-buy carriers come to the fleet and they will have features not even developed today.
"We are going to be talking about how big of a laser can I put on this ship to help defend itself. How much high-power microwave, what can I do to improve this radar. How much more combat capability can I build into those ships that was not even thought of when we designed the first ship, the Ford," Admiral Richardson shared.
Newport News Shipbuilding says the block-buy contract will provide stability in their workforce into the year 2032 and it will also provide stability for suppliers across the country.
"That signal of confidence resonates through the entire industrial base. People can now start to make plans. They can start to buy material at its optimum price. They can start to hire people and level out their workload curves and make the workers have a much more predictable life. All of this reduces risk and when you reduce risk, you reduce cost. That’s how we were able to save $4 billion on those two ships when we bought them together," stated Admiral Richardson.
Construction on the Enterprise began in 2017, with the ship expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2028.
CVN 80 is scheduled to be delivered in 2032.