Huntington Ingalls cutting costs of U.S. aircraft carriers

Fri Nov 8, 2013 1:12pm EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII.N: Quote) has left "no stone unturned" in trying to lower the cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of aircraft carriers to be christened Saturday, a top company official said.

The company is also working hard to apply lessons learned from that first ship to the next one, the USS John F. Kennedy, which is under construction now at Newport News Shipbuilding, said Matt Mulherin, president of the shipyard and corporate vice president of Huntington Ingalls.

"You've got to go and take the lessons that you need to learn from the Ford and ... we're doing that extremely well," Mulherin told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The Navy has pledged to cut the cost of the Kennedy by $1.2 billion - excluding non-recurring engineering costs and inflation - from the projected $12.9 billion price tag of the Ford, which is 25 percent more than initially expected. Congress has imposed a cost cap of $11.4 billion on the next ship, the Kennedy.

Susan Ford Bales, the late president's daughter, is scheduled to smash a bottle of American sparkling wine across the hull of the city-sized ship on Saturday at a christening ceremony to be attended by hundreds of dignitaries, including Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Mulherin said his company was carefully tracking labor costs and overtime, and setting strict criteria for performance on every job in the shipyard as work was completed on the Ford. The ship is about 70 percent complete, and has about 27 more months of testing and work ahead before delivery to the Navy.

"We have left no stone unturned," Mulherin said. "We are monitoring the data on a daily and weekly basis to make sure we understand where we are."

He said the company was working closely with the Navy to ensure that work on the Kennedy was even more efficient, with a larger percentage of the ship's equipment being assembled in shops and on the dock before being installed on the ship.   Continued...

The superlift erected on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is one of the heaviest Newport News Shipbuilding will construct and lift into the dock. REUTERS/Chris Oxley /Huntington Ingalls Industries/Handout