A steel cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday for the U.S. Navy’s newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Doris Miller (CVN 81).
Slated to be the fourth Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, CVN 81 is currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding shipyard in Newport News, Va. Doris Miller’s keel is scheduled to be laid in 2026 and delivered to the Navy in 2032.
Doris Miller is the second ship of the two-carrier contract award HII received in January 2019 for the detail design and construction of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers; Enterprise (CVN 80) being the first ship of the contract. Newport News currently is performing early manufacturing of Doris Miller, which includes structural fabrication and shop work. The ship also will be the second aircraft carrier built completely using digital drawings and procedures rather than traditional paper work packages and products.
The Ford-class features new software-controlled electromagnetic catapults and weapons elevators, a redesigned flight deck and island, and more than twice the electrical capacity of the preceding Nimitz-class carriers. Ford-class carriers are designed to be the centerpiece of the nation’s security strategy and support and protect the global economy through the protection of sea lanes around the world.
Contributing to the $8.8 billion build project are more than 2,000 supplier companies from across the country, including the U.S.’ largest supplier of valves, pipes, and fittings to the maritime industry, W&O Supply, Inc. The company contributes fluid flow control material components and systems, consisting of pipe, valves, fittings and engineered solutions.
Phil Jiannine, W&O’s Director of Government Sales, commented, “We know that in times of crisis, aircraft carriers are the tip of the spear. All of us at W&O are proud to do our part to make sure this magnificent fighting machine, named after such a dedicated American, gets the quality material and workmanship it deserves.”
Doris Miller is the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier named for an African American and the first carrier named in honor of a sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks. Miller is credited with heroic actions while serving aboard the Newport News-built West Virginia (BB 48) during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Miller’s bravery earned him the Navy Cross.
During the small steel cutting ceremony held inside of a manufacturing facility, Thomas Bledsoe, the great nephew of the ship’s namesake, gave the order to “cut that steel” to shipbuilder Gerald Bish, who operated a large plasma-cutting machine that sliced into a steel plate. Shipbuilders, U.S. Navy leadership, elected officials and Doris Miller’s relatives signed their names on the plate.
“Today we recognize the start of construction of the fourth ship of the Gerald R. Ford class,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. “From this day forward, our shipbuilders will put their hearts into every pipe they fit, every unit they lift and every inch of steel they weld.
Ceremony participants included U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who offered remarks; Rear Adm. James Downey, program executive officer for aircraft carriers; Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Navy Russell Smith; shipbuilders and six members of Doris Miller’s family.
“It is so fitting and timely during a period of significant discussion and change we come together to begin construction of one of our Navy’s next great aircraft carriers, in the name of one of the finest heroes of the greatest generation,” Downey said. “We will construct a sound and mighty warship worthy of his legacy.”
Members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation, including Reps. Rob Wittman, R-Va. and Elaine Luria, D-Va. also attended the event. Other guests included Capt. Andrew P. Johnson, commanding officer of Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Newport News.
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