House, Senate Agree to Authorize 3 Flight III Destroyers in FY 23 NDAA Negotiations

Congress is set to authorize the Navy to buy three Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers in Fiscal Year 2023 as part of a nearly finalized House and Senate $847 billion defense policy bill, USNI News has learned. House and Senate negotiators of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which lawmakers are set to […]

Arleigh Burke destroyers Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) and the Legend-class cutter Calhoun (WMSL-759) at Ingalls Shipbuilding on Aug. 4, 2022. USNI News Photo

Congress is set to authorize the Navy to buy three Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers in Fiscal Year 2023 as part of a nearly finalized House and Senate $847 billion defense policy bill, USNI News has learned.

House and Senate negotiators of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which lawmakers are set to file as early as the end of the week, agreed to authorize the acquisition of 11 new ships for the Navy as part of a deal that boosts the defense budget $45 billion over the Biden administration’s initial request for the Pentagon, three sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed to USNI News. The broad outline of the defense policy bill was first reported by Politico.

“With inflation factored in, it is a good increase, but it’s essential because of inflation and also the need to continue significant programs,” Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said in an interview with Politico.

The Navy initially asked for two ships in FY 2023 as part of a proposed nine-ship multi-year destroyer deal with an option for a 10th in its latest budget submission.

In May, USNI News reported that there was bipartisan support for a 15-ship multi-year Flight III acquisition deal that would have HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works building at a rate of three destroyers per year for five years. The deal would bring the total DDG-51 line to 104 hulls — through DDG-153.

More hulls will likely go to the larger Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi while Bath clears its backlog of current ships on order. Bath has been beset by slowdowns in its ship production, in part due to COVID-19-related delays. Last year, the yard delivered USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), which had originally started construction in 2014. The next ship from the yard, Carl Levin (DDG-120), is set to deliver in the next several months. The Navy has started work on developing the next large surface combatant — DDG(X) — that is set to follow the Burke line.

The inclusion of the additional Flight III in the FY 2023 NDAA comes as the Navy questions the industrial base’s capability to build beyond its current rate.

“Right now, we’re not at a point where the industrial base can support three destroyers a year. They’re somewhere at two, two and a half,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in September.
“We want to make sure if we’re going to put that money down against shipbuilding, that the capacity is actually there. So that money is well spent … sending them a clear signal.”

The NDAA will also authorize two Virginia-class nuclear attack boats and two Constellation-class guided-missile frigates, USNI News understands.

The NDAA could go before the House as early as next week and then to the Senate before going to the White House. While the authorization is nearing completion, House and Senate appropriators are still in negotiations for the defense funding bill. The government is operating under a continuing resolution that is set to expire on Dec. 16.

CNO Gilday: Industrial Capacity Largest Barrier to Growing the Fleet

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The biggest barrier to adding more ships to the Navy is industrial base capacity, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday. The service’s top officer said shipbuilders need indicators from the service before they’re able to make the investments required to build, for example, three destroyers per year. “We have […]

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday delivers testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2023 defense budget request on May 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The biggest barrier to adding more ships to the Navy is industrial base capacity, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday.

The service’s top officer said shipbuilders need indicators from the service before they’re able to make the investments required to build, for example, three destroyers per year.

“We have an industrial capacity that’s limited. In other words, we can only get so many ships off the production line a year. My goal would be to optimize those production lines for destroyers, for frigates, for amphibious ships, for the light amphibious ships, for supply ships,” Gilday said at a Heritage Foundation event.

“We need to give a signal to industry that we need to get to three destroyers a year, instead of 1.5, that we need to maintain two submarines a year. And so part of this is on us to give them a clear set of – a clear aim point so they can plan a work force and infrastructure that’s going to be able to meet the demand. But again, no industry is going to make those kinds of investments unless we give them a higher degree of confidence.”

Asked by USNI News after the event if the reason the Navy isn’t ready to send that signal to industry is because of funding, Gilday said, “it depends on the class of ships. Sometimes it’s affordability. Sometimes it’s industrial capacity.”

The Navy in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget submission projected buying two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers per year between FY 2023 and FY 2027. But Congress is pushing for a 10-ship buy across that same time period with options for five more destroyers, amounting to three destroyers per year.

While Gilday has pointed to capacity as a hurdle to growing the fleet, two U.S. shipyards have already made significant infrastructure investments that could set them up to build more ships. Austal USA recently built a new steel line and is interested in the second line for the Constellation-class frigate. HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding, which builds some of the destroyers, has spent nearly $1 billion over the last five years to modernize its Pascagoula, Miss., yard, USNI News recently reported. Bath Iron Works, the other yard that builds the destroyers, is still facing a backlog of work that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gilday’s 2022 Navigation Plan, released last month, calls for 373 manned ships and about 150 unmanned surface and underwater vehicles by 2045.

As for unmanned, Gilday said that when he assumed top job, he viewed the Navy’s pursuit of those platforms the same way he viewed traditional acquisition programs, which typically span years and take significant research and development. The service’s unmanned efforts have to move faster, he argued.

“We’ve changed the construct. We’ve changed the framework in terms of our development of unmanned capabilities,” Gilday said.

The CNO pointed to the Task Force 59 effort operating in the Middle East that has tested numerous contractor-owned vessels and unmanned air assets with allies and partners.

A Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) sails in the Gulf of Aqaba off of Jordan’s coast on Dec. 12, 2021. US Navy Photo

“With unmanned technologies that are out there, we’ve developed a DevOps kind of environment with [an] unmanned task force in the Pentagon that’s closely connected to Task Force 59, which operates out of Bahrain,” he said. “And that task force is operating with six or seven different countries as a team right now to increase maritime domain awareness using unmanned in the air and on the sea. Our goal is to have 100 networked unmanned platforms operating together, tied together in a mesh network that delivers an understanding of what’s afloat out there – whether it’s in the Red Sea or the Arabian Gulf.”

The goal is to have those 100 unmanned platforms, most of which Gilday said would belong to allies and partners, by the summer of 2023.

“If we take a look at the Red Sea, the Red Sea’s about the size of the state of California. On any given day, we may have four or five coalition ships that are operating in that water space. Think about five patrol cars trying to secure the state of California,” he said. “And then think about the power of unmanned and what that capability gives you in terms of sensing and then understanding at the tactical edge, in these operation centers, and our partner nations leveraging AI.”

For unmanned, Gilday emphasized the importance of the artificial intelligence software integration over the physical asset.

“So if I drew a parallel to Tesla who’s a digital native in the automotive industry, there’s plenty of platforms out there – Volkswagen, Ford, a number of companies have their platform. The secret sauce is that AI software” piece, he said.

“And we don’t have to have the same company that develops both of these. It’s a very competitive environment. Small companies are making the magic plugin that we can change out very quickly,” Gilday added. “So we’re trying to field capabilities, unmanned capabilities, in this Fiscal Year Defense Plan, within three to five years. Actually we’re fielding it now. It’s also informing, this progress is informing some of our bigger programs like large and medium unmanned [surface vehicles] that we would hope to scale later on in this decade.”

After the event, Gilday told USNI News that Task Force 59 will continue its unmanned exercises, but said the U.S. is trying to more regularly integrate unmanned platforms into its fleet operations.

“We’re folding in unmanned to fleet battle problems, we’re doing it with deploying strike groups,” he said. “We’re just trying to make it more something that we’re doing routinely rather than just having a separate exercise.”

GAO Report on Risk in Defense Industrial Base

The following is the July 7, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Defense Industrial Base DoD Should Take Actions to Strengthen Its Risk Mitigation Approach. From the report The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Industrial Base Policy office does not yet have a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate risks to the industrial base—the companies that develop […]

The following is the July 7, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Defense Industrial Base DoD Should Take Actions to Strengthen Its Risk Mitigation Approach.

From the report

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Industrial Base Policy office does not yet
have a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate risks to the
industrial base—the companies that develop and manufacture technologies and
weapon systems for DOD. The office is using a combination of four previously
issued reports that were created for other requirements because it devoted its resources to completing other priorities. Collectively, the reports do not include several elements GAO has previously identified that would help DOD achieve results, evaluate progress, and ensure accountability.

DOD must update its industrial base strategy following the submission of the next National Security Strategy Report, which is expected to be issued later in 2022. By including all elements in a consolidated strategy, DOD could better ensure that all appropriate organizations are working toward the same priorities, promoting supply chain resiliency, and supporting national security objectives.

DOD is carrying out numerous efforts to mitigate risks to the industrial base. This includes more than $1 billion in reported efforts under Navy submarine and destroyer programs and $125 million to sustain a domestic microelectronics manufacturer. However, DOD has limited insight into the effectiveness of these efforts and how much progress it has made addressing risks.

GAO Image

For example:

  • The Industrial Base Policy office and military services have not
    established enterprise-wide performance measures to monitor the
    aggregate effectiveness of DOD’s mitigation efforts.
  • DOD’s annual Industrial Capabilities Reports do not include information
    about the progress the department has made in mitigating risks.

GAO’s prior work on enterprise risk management establishes that agencies
should monitor and report on the status and effectiveness of their risk mitigation efforts. Without key monitoring and reporting information, DOD and Congress do not have sufficient information to help determine whether industrial base risks have been mitigated and what additional resources or actions may be needed.

Download document here.

Former BIW Head Lesko to Helm Canadian Shipyard

The former president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is headed north to oversee Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, the Canadian shipyard announced on this week. Dirk Lesko, who headed BIW from 2016 until his abrupt departure in April, will now lead the yard that is at the center of the Canadian plan to recapitalize its fleet […]

Irving Halifax Shipyard

The former president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is headed north to oversee Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, the Canadian shipyard announced on this week.

Dirk Lesko, who headed BIW from 2016 until his abrupt departure in April, will now lead the yard that is at the center of the Canadian plan to recapitalize its fleet starting in September, according to the statement from Irving.

AT BIW, Lesko oversaw the construction of the Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer programs, which have fallen behind schedule. He left the company with little warning following a negotiation with the shipyard workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ Local S6.

Dirk Lesko. Irving Photo

Lesko replaces Kevin Mooney, who resigned in June for personal reasons after two years at the head of the yard.

Mooney, a former U.S. Navy submariner, had succeeded former U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command head Kevin McCoy as president of the yard. McCoy led the yard from 2013 to 2021 following his retirement from the Navy.

For the last decade, Irving’s Halifax Shipyard has been working through a plan to recapitalize the Canadian Navy’s surface combatant fleet. The plan calls for six Harry DeWolf-class arctic offshore patrol vessels and 15 Canadian variants of the Type-26 guided-missile frigate. HMCS Harry Dewolfe (AOPV 430) commissioned last year. Second in-class HMCS Margaret Brooke (AOPV 431) delivered last year and is in sea trials.

The Type-26s will replace the Iroquois-class guided-class destroyers and the Canadian Navy’s dozen Halifax-class frigates. The first of the new class is expected to start construction in 2024, company officials told the Ottawa Citizen last month.

In total, Canadian officials estimate the 15 Type-26s could cost up to $60 billion.

VIDEO: Christening of Destroyer John Basilone

The following is the June 18, 2022, christening ceremony of the guided missile destroyer John Basilone (DDG-122). “The ship’s namesake, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, received the Medal of Honor for heroism displayed in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II, where he led his heavy machine gun sections in defense of a critical position […]

The following is the June 18, 2022, christening ceremony of the guided missile destroyer John Basilone (DDG-122).

“The ship’s namesake, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, received the Medal of Honor for heroism displayed in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II, where he led his heavy machine gun sections in defense of a critical position and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Basilone later returned to action at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1944, where he single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse and led a Marine tank under fire safely through a minefield. He was killed in action later that day and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his unwavering devotion and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice,” reads a statement from the Navy.

The sponsors are Ryan Manion and Amy Looney Heffernan. Manion broke a bottle of sparkling wine on the bow.

Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine); Vice Adm. Francis Morley, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition; Vice Adm. Scott Conn, deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities; Don Basilone, brother of the ship’s namesake; and Charles Krugh, president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works spoke at the ceremony.

Congress Wants Potential 15 Hull, 5-year Destroyer Deal at 3 Ships a Year

Congress is considering a new multi-ship deal to buy up to 15 guided-missile destroyers for the Navy over the next five years, two legislative sources familiar with the deliberations told USNI News on Thursday. The deal would authorize a 10-ship multi-year deal with options to buy five additional Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers from Fiscal […]

Frank Petersen (DDG-121) leaves HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding on April 8, 2022. HII Photo

Congress is considering a new multi-ship deal to buy up to 15 guided-missile destroyers for the Navy over the next five years, two legislative sources familiar with the deliberations told USNI News on Thursday.

The deal would authorize a 10-ship multi-year deal with options to buy five additional Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers from Fiscal Year 2023 to 2027. The work would be split between General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine and HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi.

If approved by Congress, the multiyear contract would extend the DDG-51 line to 104 hulls through DDG-153.

The move would push the Navy well beyond its initial FY 2023 budget request, in which the service asked for a nine-ship multi-year deal with an option for a tenth ship. Last month, Republicans were considering pushing the Navy towards an 11 ship multiyear but the plan has expanded to 15 with bipartisan support, the sources told USNI News.

The multi-year deal would set HII and BIW on a path to build three ships per year, with the majority of the work likely headed to Ingalls, USNI News understands.

BIW has been plagued with production setbacks over the last several years, with a backlog of work exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year the yard delivered USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), which had originally started construction in 2014. Former BIW president Dirk Lesko initiated a drive to improve DDG deliveries, which have lagged due to a combination of COVID-19 delays, labor problems and supply chain difficulties.

Lesko left the job with no warning last month following a negotiation with the shipyard workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ Local S6. He was replaced with an executive from General Dynamics Gulfstream, the company’s private jet arm, USNI News reported earlier this month.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday toured the yard in March, he said recently at a U.S. Naval Institute-CSIS Maritime Security Dialogue.

“They’re at about [delivering] one a year. My question is, when can you get to 1.5?” Gilday said.

HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., has had a better track record, delivering five destroyers since 2014.

The Mississippi yard, which builds the Navy’s San Antonio and America-class amphibious warships and the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters, has expanded its footprint as of 2020, the company announced.

In the last two days, legislators in the House and Senate have pushed the Navy on how many ships industry could produce.

During his testimony before the House and Senate this week, Gilday said the service wanted to maximize the Virginia-class attack submarine, the emerging Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and production of high-end missiles.

For subs, Gilday said General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton Ct., and HII’s Newport News Shipyard in Newport News, Va., could maintain a pace of two attack boats and one boomer per year. On destroyers, Gilday said the level was closer to two per year.

During a Navy budget hearing on Thursday, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) sought to clarify the Navy’s view of the industrial base.

“I checked with the shipbuilders, and they said that they could build additional ships,” she said. “We need to come together on whether or not 15 ships is what we can actually get to.”

Lawmakers this week criticized the Navy’s shipbuilding plan. Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) asked Gilday what the Navy needs to take on China at sea after showing a chart that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would have 100 more warships by 2027 – the end of the Pentagon’s current five-year budget plan and when the Defense Department estimates China will reach military overmatch against the U.S. in the Western Pacific.

“We have allowed this committee and the building to fall into a false choice of readiness versus modernization. I think the real choice is how much money should you be asking for to be ready to win. I don’t want to pace. I want to overmatch. I want to win in the next five years,” Waltz said on Wednesday.
“These budgets are setting us up to lose in a war with China. That is a disservice to sailors who are going to be out there on old broken-down ships and outnumbered in five years. With this [Future Years Defense Plan] what we’re buying is what we have to go to war.”

In response Gilday said, “you’re not going to change significantly between now and 2027 and so our emphasis is to deliver for the nation, the most lethal, the most ready, the most capable Navy that we can based on the resources that we have.”

Over two days of budget hearings before the House and the Senate, Gilday made the case for the Navy to increase its offensive weapons arsenal between now and 2027 as a hedge against conflict with China.

Gilday highlighted Lockheed’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range and Raytheon’s Maritime Strike Tomahawk variant and Standard Missile-6.

“What we’re trying to do is maximize domestic production lines to send a demand signal so we can fill our magazines with weapons and make sure that if the fight does go down tonight, or in the 2027 timeframe, that we’re ready to go,” Gilday told Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) during Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Navy Puts Forth 9-ship Multi-Year Deal for Arleigh Burke Destroyers

The Navy is pursuing a nine-ship multi-year procurement plan for its next batch of Arleigh Burke Flight III destroyers, according to service budget documents. While the current proposal is to buy nine destroyers, the Navy has the option to purchase an additional ship to make it a 10-ship buy across the five-year spending plan. “The […]

Jack Lucas (DDG-125) launched on June 5, 2021. HII Photo

The Navy is pursuing a nine-ship multi-year procurement plan for its next batch of Arleigh Burke Flight III destroyers, according to service budget documents.

While the current proposal is to buy nine destroyers, the Navy has the option to purchase an additional ship to make it a 10-ship buy across the five-year spending plan.

“The Navy is requesting authority to award Multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts for FY 2023 – FY 2027 for nine ships. The FY2023 budget also includes one option ship for a total procurement profile of 10 ships in FY 2023 – FY 2027,” the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget documents read. “The FY 2023 budget request reflects estimated savings for nine firm ships associated with [economic order quantity] procurement and an MYP strategy.”

The service’s Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) shows the Navy buying two destroyers per year from FY 2023 through FY 2027, amounting to 10 ships.

But Republican lawmakers may push for a third destroyer in the FY 2023 defense policy bill, a legislative source told USNI News. Should that plan move forward, lawmakers would want the Navy to buy 11 ships in the multi-year procurement, USNI News understands.

Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the Navy’s top surface warfare requirements office (OPNAV N96), has said he is committed to buying two large surface combatants per year to help the service move from the Flight III Arleigh Burkes to its next-generation destroyer, or DDG(X).

The Navy is seeking $49.7 million in research and development money for DDG(X) concept development in FY 2023, according to the budget documents. The service is also asking for another $176.6 million to create an Integrated Power and Energy System Test Facility at Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division so the Navy can use a land-based testing site for the DDG(X) propulsion system as it works on the ship design.

“DDG(X) will integrate non-developmental systems into a new hull design that incorporates platform flexibility and the space, weight, power and cooling (SWAP-C) to meet future combatant force capability/system requirements that are not achievable without the new hull design,” according to the documents. “The DDG(X) platform will have the flexibility to rapidly and affordably upgrade to future warfighting systems when they become available as well as have improved range and fuel efficiency for increased operational flexibility and decreased demand on the logistics force.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, argued earlier this year that the service needs to buy two large surface combatants per year for the next decade as a cushion while the Navy develops DDG(X).

“What I propose is the department should commit to funding two large surface combatants a year for – let’s say 10 years – during which the transition from Flight III … to DDG(X) occurs,” Gallagher said at a January conference. “Congress in turn will commit to fully funding the DDG(X) program and from there, the Navy will need to provide a plan to both Congress and industry to move forward from two Flight IIIs per year to two DDG(X)s per year over a three to five year transition. I know that the next-gen DDG won’t be online for a 2020s fight, but my point here is you can build a battle force 2025 without neglecting our longer term modernization priorities.”

The new multi-year procurement plan for more Flight IIIs would also follow the previous multi-year, in which the Navy bought two ships per year between FY 2018 and FY 2022.

Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker first disclosed plans to pursue another multi-year procurement for the destroyers last summer during hearings over the FY 2022 budget proposal. At the time, the Navy only sought one destroyer despite a contract to buy two that year to finish that last multi-year procurement contract. Congress added the second destroyer back in when it wrote the FY 2022 defense spending and policy bills.

General Dynamics CEO Says Electric Boat Ready To Meet ‘Increased Demand’ for Submarines

General Dynamics is equipped to meet the Navy’s “increased demand” for submarines, the company’s chief executive officer told investors on Wednesday. With a multi-billion dollar contract for the Virginia Block V program, the company’s Marine Systems business hit revenue records in Fiscal Year 2020. While the Trump administration forecasted more submarine work in the coming […]

USS Vermont (SSN-792) transits the Thames River while conducting routine operations on Oct. 15, 2020. US Navy Photo

General Dynamics is equipped to meet the Navy’s “increased demand” for submarines, the company’s chief executive officer told investors on Wednesday.

With a multi-billion dollar contract for the Virginia Block V program, the company’s Marine Systems business hit revenue records in Fiscal Year 2020. While the Trump administration forecasted more submarine work in the coming years, it’s unclear if the new Biden administration will continue on the same shipbuilding path. But with the Columbia-class program now under construction at Electric Boat, General Dynamics anticipates more growth in the next few years.

CEO Phebe Novakovic said in an earnings call that, for the fourth quarter of FY 2020, the company’s Marine Systems group saw $2.9 billion in revenue, which is a 11.4 percent increase from the fourth quarter of FY 2019.

Revenue for the maritime group in FY 2020 came in at nearly $10 billion, which Novakovic said is an 8.7 percent increase compared to FY 2019.

“This is the highest quarterly and full-year earnings ever for the marine group. In our mid-year guidance to you, we anticipated revenues about $9.6 billion and operating earnings of $845 million. We came in above that for both revenue and earnings,” Novakovic said.

“In response to significant increased demand from our Navy customer that you can see in these results, we continue to invest in each of our yards, particularly at Electric Boat, to prepare for [Virginia-class submarine] Block V and the new Columbia ballistic missile submarine,” she continued. “So suffice it to say that we’re poised to support our Navy customer as they increase the size of their fleet and deliver value to our shareholders as we work through this very large backlog and improve our return on invested capital.”

In October, Novakovic said the company was not yet preparing for the Navy to purchase three Virginia-class attack submarines per year, an objective former Defense Secretary Mark Esper called for earlier that month when summarizing his Battle Force 2045 fleet architecture.

Since then, the Trump White House unveiled a FY 2022 shipbuilding blueprint that would direct the Navy to buy three Virginia-class submarines a year. It remains unclear how the industrial base, which has never constructed three Virginia-class boats per year, could sustain that build rate while also constructing the Columbia-class submarines.

It’s also unclear what the new Biden administration plans to do with the previous administration’s shipbuilding plans.

At the start of FY 2021, the Navy issued Electric Boat a $9.47 billion contract modification to start building the lead ship in the Columbia class, which will replace the Ohio-class submarines. Electric Boat, along with Huntington Ingalls Industries’s Newport News Shipbuilding, is also on contract for Block V of the Virginia program.

Novakovic attributed 50 percent of the Marine Systems group’s growth in FY 2020 to the Columbia program and said she expects the group to see a revenue boost of $400 million to $500 million per year.

“And then that will continue to accelerate as we pull through more production. So in the moment, for 2021, as I alluded to in my remarks, the opportunity there is for increased revenue,” she said. “And that happens in the shipyards by increased throughput. We pull work in, depending on the work cadence, the schedule, the planning, the availability.”

Asked about the potential for flattening defense budgets, Novakovic pointed to the company’s steady business building the Navy’s submarines, destroyers and fleet oilers. She argued that General Dynamics is in a good position because the Navy has identified submarines as a crucial component of its strategy.

“So I’m quite confident that, given my belief that the defense budget is driven by the threat, that our key elements of our marine group growth will be nicely supported. We believe that the Navy will continue to need destroyers. The DDG-51 is proving to be a very versatile program, platform that can take additional missions,” Novakovic said.

“And then with our auxiliary yard out at NASSCO – you know, with the exception of the nuclear-powered carriers and nuclear submarines, all these Navy fleets need gas,” she continued. “And the gas needs to get there safely, fastly and pumped efficiently. And that’s our new oiler program.”

Future Destroyer Daniel Inouye Begins Builder’s Trials, After Nearly Two-Year Gap In Trials For BIW Ships

Bath Iron Works sent its first ship in two years down the Kennebec River for sea trials, with builder’s trials for the future Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) kicking off, the shipyard announced today. Builder’s trials are the first chance for BIW and the Navy to see the ship operating underway and to ensure […]

The future USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) conducts builder’s trials in the Kennebec River in Maine, December 2020. Bath Iron Works photo.

Bath Iron Works sent its first ship in two years down the Kennebec River for sea trials, with builder’s trials for the future Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) kicking off, the shipyard announced today.

Builder’s trials are the first chance for BIW and the Navy to see the ship operating underway and to ensure all the hull, mechanical and electrical systems are working properly. A crew composed of shipyard workers is sailing Inouye now, and the assigned Navy crew will soon take over the ship for training and acceptance trials in the coming months.

“Sea trials for DDG-118 carried the additional requirement of utmost importance: to protect all riders against transmission of COVID-19 while on board. This challenge was met with an extensive plan and protocols that mirror the robust safety measures taken in the shipyard every day to keep our employees safe,” reads a statement from General Dynamics Bath Iron Works.

The last ship BIW sent out for trials was USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), which conducted builder’s trials in March 2018 and acceptance trials in May.

Daniel Inouye’s schedule has slipped repeatedly – a 2018 article from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser noted construction on the ship began in 2014 and that the DDG was supposed to deliver to its Pearl Harbor homeport in 2018, which was pushed to 2020 due to schedule changes at BIW. That 2020 homeport arrival now appears set for 2021, as the ship will have to go through acceptance trials and delivery to the Navy before it can sail from Maine around to Hawaii.

The future USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) conducts builder’s trials in the Kennebec River in Maine, December 2020. Bath Iron Works photo.

Since deciding to restart Arleigh Burke construction in 2008, the Navy’s plan had been to award contracts for two hulls a year across two builders: BIW and Ingalls Shipbuilding. In the current multiyear contract, the service has been trying to lobby Congress for money for a third ship a year, which it successfully got in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020. Though the contracts had been awarded evenly in the previous few years, in Fiscal Year 2018 the Navy awarded two ships to Ingalls and zero ships to BIW, in acknowledgment of the yard’s great backlog and expected difficulty getting new ships delivered on time. In FY 2019 each yard was given one ship and BIW was later awarded the option for a third ship, to help make up for the previous year and keep a steady flow of work. But in FY 2020, the option for the third ship went to Ingalls, even though USNI News understands that BIW offered a better price on the ship – because the Navy cared more about a reliable delivery schedule than it did contract cost.

BIW President Dirk Lesko previously acknowledged the yard is about a year behind in its destroyer production – a combination of previous delays of about six months, plus the effects of this year’s pandemic and the months-long strike by union workers.

“DDG 118 is the first BIW ship to head down the Kennebec River in two years. It represents our future as a shipyard, not just because this ship is an important and much-needed asset for the U.S. Navy fleet, but also because it demonstrates the commitment by our workforce and company management to increase our shipbuilding rate to two ships per year, a crucial part of our Three Year Schedule Recovery Plan that is well underway,” reads the BIW statement.

BIW is trying to dig out of its backlog of work and return to a competitive shipbuilding rate within three years. The Navy’s current multiyear contract will end in FY 2022, and at that point BIW will likely be asked to compete with Ingalls again for another multiyear contract. The Navy had originally planned to end the Arleigh Burke line in 2022 and upgrade to a Large Surface Combatant, but that LSC program has been pushed back repeatedly, and a “DDG Next” large combatant program is now slated to start construction in 2028 – leaving a five-year gap that will almost certainly be filled with another multiyear contract for Arleigh Burkes. If BIW runs into problems implementing its recovery plan, it would have a harder time going into that competition with a strong bid.