Bath Iron Works has a new contract for Arleigh Burke class destroyers, like the USS Thomas Hudner which was christened April 1, 2017, at BIW.
Bath Iron Works has been awarded a contract to design and build two Arleigh Burke class destroyers for the Navy, work that is expected to keep one of Maine’s largest employers busy for several years.
BIW and members of Maine’s congressional delegation announced the Navy’s contract award for planning and construction of two DDG-51 Class destroyers on Thursday.
The Navy isn’t releasing the value of the contract because it plans to award more contracts in the future and wants to make sure the bidding process remains competitive. BIW, which is owned by General Dynamics, competes for Navy surface combatant contracts with Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
“These contracts help to stabilize our business and are welcome news,” BIW President Dirk Lesko said in a statement. “We are grateful to Maine’s congressional delegation and Navy Secretary (Richard) Spencer for their efforts and leadership.”
The Navy contract award was modified to include full funding for two destroyers, the DDG-126 and DDG-127, and will include funding for Flight III radar design upgrades on the DDG-126, Lesko said. The new, advanced radar is expected to significantly improve the Arleigh Burke class destroyer’s ability to detect and destroy enemy targets, including ballistic missiles.
The Navy originally had wanted both ships built with the new radar system, which would have required a significant redesign of sections of the DDG-126, but members of Maine’s delegation and BIW officials worried that integrating a complex radar system into the design would have proven more costly, with the Bath shipyard being forced to absorb additional costs.
Funding for the ship already had been awarded under a multi-year competition for DDG-51 class destroyers in 2013. Funding for the DDG-127 was approved this year by Congress under separate legislation, Lesko said in the statement.
‘THE WORKHORSES OF THE NAVY’
Lesko said the Navy has decided to name the DDG-126 ship after Louis H. Wilson Jr., the 26th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Wilson received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Guam.
Lesko said there are currently four DDG-51 destroyers under various stages of construction at BIW. The Arleigh Burke destroyer is a multi-mission ship that offers defense against a wide range of threats. There are also two Zumwalt Class or stealth destroyers in production at BIW.
The amount of work at the Bath shipyard could drop off when the Navy takes delivery of the third and final Zumwalt-class destroyer sometime later this decade. The Navy and BIW have not provided a completion date for that destroyer – considered to be the largest and most technologically advanced destroyer in Navy history.
“These contracts to construct two new DDG-51 class destroyers in Bath demonstrates the Navy’s commitment to BIW and its confidence in the highly skilled, hard-working employees at the shipyard. There is no workforce in the world better positioned to build these ships,” Maine Sens. Angus King, Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a joint statement.
“As the workhorses of the Navy, this destroyer’s ability to deliver capability and presence has been demonstrated many times over. These ships will strengthen our naval fleet and allow the Navy to promote stability and security in the face of proliferating threats around the globe,” the legislators said.
King, an independent, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Collins, a Republican, is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. She represents Maine’s 1st District.
In July, Pingree and her House colleague, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, succeeded in adding an amendment to a defense bill that allowed BIW to build the DDG-126.
“I am extremely pleased with today’s announcement and am thrilled for the thousands of hardworking Maine shipbuilders at BIW, who play an essential role in ensuring our nation’s defense and strength,” Poliquin said in a statement. “America’s might around the world depends on these Maine workers.”
NEWS HELPS OFFSET LAST YEAR’S LOSS
The news that more Navy work is heading to Bath comes at an opportune time for the Kennebec River shipyard. About a year ago the shipyard missed out on an opportunity to build a new class of offshore patrol cutters for the Coast Guard – a potential $10 billion contract, involving 25 ships.
Bath Iron Works competed for the Coast Guard cutter contract as a way to diversify its shipbuilding workload, which consists almost exclusively of Navy destroyers. The shipyard adopted leaner manufacturing operations and negotiated new labor contracts in an effort to lower its production costs.
But Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc., based in Panama City, Florida, won the cutter contract, a decision that threatened 1,000 jobs at BIW, shipyard officials said at the time.
BIW is state’s fifth largest private employer, employing between 5,500 and 6,000 workers during the fourth quarter of 2016, according to state data. Employment levels can change based on the nature of the shipbuilding business, which has up and down swings.
Staff Writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]