Huntington Ingalls cuts steel for third Ford-class carrier USS Enterprise

The steel was cut using an ESAB Avenger Burning Machine, and the order was given by Ship’s Sponsors and U.S. Olympians Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky. Photo: John Whalen/HII

Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries held a steel-cutting ceremony on Thursday to mark the official start of construction on the US Navy’s third Ford-class aircraft carrier, the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80).

A 35-ton steel plate was cut at the Newport News Shipbuilding division to kick off advance construction of the aircraft carrier. The steel plate will become part of the foundation of Enterprise, the ninth U.S. Navy ship to bear the legendary name.

Ship’s sponsors and U.S. Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky gave the order to cut the steel during a ceremony that marks the first construction milestone in the life of the ship.

“Much like U.S. athletes who represent the United States around the world displaying patriotism, pride and strength, so do the ships of our nation,” Biles said. “My father served in the U.S. Air Force for over 21 years and taught me discipline, determination and dedication to achieve my goals, and these same values are on display as these advanced ships are built here.”

Newport News is performing the work under an advance fabrication contract the shipyard was awarded earlier this year. Award of the CVN 80 detail design and construction contract is anticipated in 2018. Construction is currently underway on the second ship of the class, John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), with more than 50 percent of the structural units already erected.

CVN 80 will be the third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier. Designed to replace 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, and growth margin for future technologies.

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