BATH — The Department of Defense on Monday awarded Bath Iron Works contracts worth $2.84 billion to build four DDG 51 destroyers in the next five years.
An option for a fifth destroyer, if exercised, would bring the total to more than $3.53 billion.
Through a competitive bidding process, BIW competitor Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, Miss. – the only other Navy supplier of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers – also was awarded $3.3 billion in contracts to build five ships.
Bath Iron Works will build one destroyer in fiscal years 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“These contract awards represent great value to the taxpayer and will ensure our warfighters have the ships and systems they need to prevail in any situation,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in a statement. “By leveraging competition in the DDG 51 class shipbuilding program, these shipbuilders will continue their proud histories in delivering these highly capable ships to the fleet while meeting critical operational requirements for integrated air and missile defense capability.”
Chris Johnson, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., said based on the authorized funding, Ingalls Shipbuilding will build the only DDG 51 in 2014.
“If we can resolve the funding shortfall with Congress, we’ll award a second ship” in 2014 to Bath Iron Works, he said.
“I was hopeful it would be the other way around, with BIW getting five ships and Ingalls getting four with an option for a fifth, but it is good news,” said Dan Dowling, president of Local S6 of the machinists union, which represents 3,000 BIW workers. “It will provide us a little more security for the future. Things have been looking up compared to where we were a year or so ago. It should keep the employment levels stable. The company has been doing some hiring, so we’ve been gearing up. Things are moving in the right direction.”
Maine’s congressional delegation had mixed reactions to the news.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said the contracts would help maintain local employment but both expressed frustration that sequestration is preventing the Navy from awarding the fifth ship.
“Although four ships represent a lot of work for BIW, we need to keep fighting to get the remaining funding necessary for one more,” Pingree said in a statement. “These ships are the workhorses of the fleet and are critical to our nation’s defense.”
“The Navy’s decision to award BIW four ships to be built over the next five years will help add stability to the workload there,” Collins said Monday in a statement. “However, it is disappointing that we will have to continue to fight for the funding necessary for the fifth DDG-51. I fought to include language in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act that allows the Navy to procure the additional ship, and we had secured an additional $1 billion for the fifth ship in the FY2013 Department of Defense Appropriations Act which was affected by the across-the-board spending cuts under sequestration.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said “haphazard budgeting processes, like sequestration, only serve to hamper our nation’s economic health and military readiness and I will continue to work with Senator Collins, my colleagues in the Senate, and the leadership of the Navy to determine how we can best alleviate the impact of sequestration so that BIW can build the fifth ship, which they were awarded.”
Beginning with the second DDG 51 destroyers built in 2016, the ships will feature a new air and missile defense system known as Flight III, with “much better and bigger radar,” Johnson said.
BIW already has five ships under contract: Three Zumwalt-class DDG 1000s and two DDG 51 destroyers: DDG 115, the future USS Rafael Peralta, and DDG 116, the future USS Thomas Hudner, are scheduled for delivery in 2016 and 2017.
The sleek and stealthy shape of the first DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer under construction at Bath Iron Works is beginning to take shape at the company’s land-level transfer facility, as shown in this April 4 photo.