HII’s Newport News (NN) division has announced it has begun production at its new, additional campus in Norfolk, Virginia to “free up critical storage space” at its main shipyard for other priority programmes, such as the development of US Navy nuclear-powered submarines.

The NN Shipbuilding Norfolk Campus is located on land leased from Fairlead in the Lambert’s Point area, at a development known as Fairwinds Landing.

NNS shipbuilders have worked at the site for several months constructing steel panels that will eventually make up units of Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN 80).

Currently, the main Norfolk shipyard is over-worked with various construction and maintenance programmes. Simultaneously, there are three Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers that are under construction: John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80) and Doris Miller (CVN 81).

Freeing up space for nuclear-powered submarines

“The site is freeing up critical storage space at the main shipyard in Newport News to support other programmes, including nuclear-powered submarine production. The campus in Norfolk also allows for future growth opportunities,” the NN press release explained.

It is no secret that the US’s submarine industrial base is experiencing a delivery shortfall at a time when the Virginia-class conventional attack submarines (SSN) and forthcoming Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) are the means for implementing the US Government’s strategic objectives in a tense geopolitical environment, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.

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Referring to the current risk of conflict on the world stage today, Edward Bartlett, the founder and CEO of Bartlett Maritime, a corporation tasked with assisting the US Navy with overcoming its submarine construction shortfall, stated “we must be creative and pro-active to help the Navy return to robustness in an accelerated manner.

“We don’t have decades to rebuild,” given America’s competition with China in technological capability and in terms of naval force structure.

NN’s main Norfolk shipyard is one of just two facilities in the country, including General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Rhode Island shipyard, that can build nuclear-powered ships.

Expanding NN’s capacity with new campus has been a long time coming as submarine construction has waned throughout the past decade.

“This is a prime example of how we’re innovating, thinking differently and improving efficiency when it comes to building the aircraft carriers our nation needs,” explained Les Smith, NNS vice president for Enterprise, Doris Miller (CVN 81) and future nuclear-powered aircraft carrier programmes. “Coupling our energised workforce with this additional capacity is already yielding positive results and we expect to see great synergy as a result of this intentional investment.”