Maine and Mississippi lawmakers sent a letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro urging him to include funding for three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the president’s naval budget for next year.

Maine Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree signed the letter alongside Mississippi Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Reps. Steven Palazzo and Trent Kelly.

In the letter to Del Toro, the Maine and Mississippi delegations emphasized the importance of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to national security and the impact shipbuilding has in the two areas where they’re created: Bath Iron Works and Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls.

The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act authorized $4.9 billion for three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which BIW and Huntington Ingalls can compete to build.

The congressional delegations also asked Del Toro to develop a multi-year contract for 15 Arleigh Burkes to be built over five years to help bolster the naval fleet.

“Congress consistently supports the national policy of achieving at least a 355-ship fleet as codified in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge the Navy to develop a multi-year procurement program of 15 destroyers which maximizes the procured number of ships under the contract, with the understanding that if adequately funded, the industrial base can support at least three ships per year.”

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In the Feb. 3, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, naval affairs analyst Ronald O’Rourke wrote BIW is “well-positioned to support the Administration’s announced goal of increasing the size of the Navy fleet to 355 ships.”

“For BIW that would mean increasing the total current procurement rate of two (Arleigh Burkes) per year to as many as four (Arleigh Burkes) per year, allocated equally between BIW and Huntington Ingalls,” O’Rourke wrote. “BIW has invested significantly in its training programs since 2014 with the restart of the (Arleigh Burke) program and given these investments and the current market in Maine, there is little concern of meeting the increase in resources required under the projected plans.”

BIW Spokesman David Hench said the shipyard “appreciates the strong and ongoing support of our delegation and of Congress as we continue to deliver a proven platform to the fleet.”

Aside from asking for more Arleigh Burkes, the lawmakers also urged the Defense Department to complete and submit its plan for a new type of destroyer, which hasn’t yet been named. The lawmakers said this new kind of ship will help “address the growing threat of China and its increasing fleet size, hedge against a belligerent Russia, and assure allies.”

“We remind you of Congress’ intent for the Navy to implement an acquisition strategy for (the new ship type) based on a collaborative design, development, and production approach between the Government and industry,” the letter reads. “A strategy closely tied to the industrial base and with extensive oversight will help prevent the issues of cost increases, program delays, and end-product reliability issues seen in other ship classes.”

During a visit to BIW with Collins and King last September, Del Toro said both BIW and Huntington Ingalls are helping the Navy design this new type of warship, which is expected to succeed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

According to a Feb. 3, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Navy officials hope to ask for this new ship in 2028. It’s forecasted to be larger than a 9,700-ton Arleigh Burke, but smaller than a 15,700-ton Zumwalt-class destroyer and cost an estimated $2.9 billion. An Arleigh Burke costs about $2 billion.

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