Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has conducted the first steel cutting for the US Navy's third future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier known as Enterprise (CVN 80), marking the beginning of its construction phase.
The 35t steel plate was cut at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division to start the nuclear-powered naval vessel's development.
Newport News Shipbuilding president Jennifer Boykin said: “With this ship, we will ‘boldly go where no one has gone before'.
“She will be built using digital technology rather than traditional paper work packages and drawings. We will build more of this ship indoors in new facilities, so that our people have more opportunities to work undercover and out of the weather.
“CVN 80 will revolutionise how we build ships, just as her predecessor CVN 65, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, revolutionised our industry.”
The shipbuilder is carrying out the work under an advance fabrication contract that was secured earlier this year.
The deal for the aircraft carrier's detail design and construction is expected to be awarded in 2018.
Construction work on the second Ford-class aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is currently underway, and more than 50% of the structural units have already been developed.
USS Enterprise has been designed to replace the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
The vessel is equipped with a new nuclear power plant, enhanced weapons movement, electromagnetic catapults, a redesigned island and an improved flight deck with the ability of increased aircraft sortie rates, as well as growth margin for the integration of future technologies.
Each Ford-class carrier is expected to be operated by a smaller crew than Nimitz-class vessels and will facilitate a saving of around $4bn in total ownership costs for the navy.
HII previously secured a $152m contract from the US Navy for advance planning for the construction of CVN 80 in May last year.
Image: First cut of steel for the US Navy’s third Ford-class aircraft carrier, Enterprise (CVN 80). Photo: courtesy of John Whalen / HII.