Pentagon notifies Congress of two-carrier buy, contract expected by end of January

The US Department of Defense has officially notified the Congress of its intention to buy two aircraft carriers at once in a move that is expected to bring some $4 billion in savings.

In a letter on December 31, the Pentagon formally informed the Congress about the block buy of two Ford-class aircraft carriers.

US Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the announcement.

“This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done. Newport News builds the finest carriers in the world, and I know they are ready to handle this increase in work as we make progress toward the Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet,” Kaine said.

Following the confirmation, the navy could award the official contract by the end of January, according to USNI News.

The announcement on December 31 follows a request for proposals from March 2018 in which the US Naval Sea Systems Command asked Huntington Ingalls Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS), the sole builder of aircraft carriers in the US, to provide more details on potential cost savings with a two-ship buy of Ford-class carriers CVN 80 and CVN 81.

The two-ship buy is a contracting strategy the navy has used in the 1980s to procure Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and achieved acquisition cost savings compared to contracting for the ships individually.

Ford-class aircraft carriers are the first new US Navy aircraft carrier class in more than 40 years and will begin the phased replacement of Nimitz-class carriers. The Ford-class features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults, improved weapons movement, an enhanced flight deck capable of increased aircraft sortie rates.

Measuring 1,100 foot (335 meters) in length and displacing 100,000 tonnes, Ford-class ships will operate with a smaller crew than a Nimitz-class carrier.

USS Gerald R Ford, the lead ship in the class, is scheduled to reach operational capability in 2020.

Photo: US Navy photo of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway in the Atlantic Ocean in August, 2017