Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has secured an extension to the previously awarded construction preparation contract for the second Gerald R Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, John F Kennedy (CVN 79), from the US Navy.
Under the $407m follow-on contract, HII's Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division will begin engineering, planning, long-lead time material procurement and initial manufacturing before the full construction contract is awarded.
NNS CVN 79 construction vice president Mike Shawcross said: "It is very important to get a good start on a ship of this magnitude and complexity, and this contract extension allows for those activities to continue and keep the ship on a path for success in meeting our customer's goals."
Currently under construction by HII, the 1,092ft-long aircraft carrier will have a beam of 134ft and can arm, refuel, launch and recover aircraft quicker.
The John F Kennedy features improvements in capabilities and equipment that include a flight-deck, enhanced weapons handling systems and a redesigned island to enable increased aircraft sortie generation rates.
Additional features of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier include increased electrical power generation capacity and flexibility for the implementation of future technologies.
The 100,000t Ford-class ships will be capable of operating up to 90 aircraft, which includes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, MH-60R/S helicopters and unmanned air vehicles and unmanned combat air vehicles.
Designed to replace Nimitz-class aircraft carriers for the US Navy, the Gerald R Ford-class carriers will be armed with the Raytheon evolved Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM) to strike against high-speed, highly manoeuvrable anti-ship missiles, as well as rolling airframe missile (RAM) close-in weapon system.
The US Navy is expected to award the full contract in 2013.
Image: Illustration of the US Navy's aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). Photo: Huntington Ingalls Industries.