Aircraft Carrier Enterprise Delivery Delayed by 18 Months, Says Navy

March 15, 2024 6:35 PM
Carriers USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) at Newport News Shipbuilding on Nov. 12, 2021. USNI News Photo

The future aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-80) will deliver a year and a half later than prior projections, according to the Navy.
The Ford-class carrier, which is currently under construction at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, will deliver in September of 2029, 18 months later than its previous scheduled delivery date in March of 2028, according to the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget documents.

The documents cite “delays in material availability and industry/supply chain performance” as the reason for the schedule change.

In addition to delays to the CVN-80 delivery, Monday’s budget submission also disclosed the Navy’s decision to delay the purchase of its next aircraft carrier, CVN-82, from Fiscal Year 2028 to Fiscal Year 2030.

“As previously stated, any deviation that lengthens intervals between platforms compared to previously approved shipbuilding plans and forecasts is concerning because of the potential disruption to our supplier base which continues its recovery amid significant levels of demand for its materials and products,” Todd Corillo, a spokesperson for HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding, said in a statement about the FY 2025 budget request.

Last year, the Navy was mulling the decision to delay the purchase of CVN-82 and CVN-83, for which the service wants to pursue a block buy contracting strategy, in part because of a one-year delay for the CVN-80 delivery, Defense News reported in October. Jay Stefany, who was the Navy’s acting acquisition chief at the time, cited workforce shortages, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and issues with suppliers as reasons for the CVN-80 delay.

Since then, HII executives have voiced concern over the potential delay to the next carrier block buy. In January, a Newport News Shipbuilding executive said it was “extremely disappointing” that the Navy was considering delaying the purchase of CVN-82.

HII executives have advocated for two carrier block buys, with three years of advance procurement funding ahead of each ship award, and a schedule that builds the carriers on four-year centers to both maintain the workforce and the supplier base.

This year’s budget request shows the Navy asking for advance procurement funding for CVN-82 beginning in FY 2027, following the shipbuilder’s advice to seek that money three years ahead of the scheduled FY 2030 award. Had the Navy kept CVN-82 as a ship scheduled for FY 2028, the service would have had to ask for the advanced procurement funding starting in the current FY 2025 submission.

But buying the next ship in FY 2030 would stretch out the time since the Navy purchased the last carrier, a move that shipbuilding executives and suppliers say could cause workforce shortages, cold production lines, and higher costs.

According to a survey conducted by the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition, which represents the suppliers, 40 percent of those suppliers say they would have to lay off employees if CVN-82 is purchased after FY 2028.

“They would likely deprioritize military shipbuilding and seek to find more commercial – otherwise non-military opportunities – for their workers and their equipment,” Lisa Papini, the chairwoman of ACIBC, told USNI News.

“If this trend continues and aircraft carrier procurement continues at a pace that is beyond … six years or more in terms of starts and centers of carriers, then it becomes 71 percent of suppliers regard this as extremely negative to their business,” she added.

Papini argued for a consistent shipbuilding plan from the Navy so suppliers can plan for future work.

The biggest challenges currently facing ACIBIC’s suppliers are workforce shortages, inflation, and supply chain issues. Papini cited one supplier that as of February 2024 was still waiting for raw material ordered in February 2022. Another supplier planned to order raw material in 2020 that doubled in cost by 2022, and then increased by another 50 percent in 2023.

More than half of the ACIBC’s suppliers contribute to both the Navy’s submarine platforms and aircraft carriers, according to the trade association’s recent survey. HII executives have cited this when voicing concern about the delay to CVN-82, arguing it could affect the construction of nuclear-powered attack boats and nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

To save money and bolster the industrial base, the Navy purchased Enterprise and the future USS Doris Miller (CVN-81) in a block buy announced in January 2019. On paper, the Navy purchased Enterprise in FY 2018 and Doris Miller in FY 2020.

When announcing that block buy, Navy officials said they anticipated $4 billion in savings. Both service officials and HII executives say the block buy is yielding cost savings and the Navy and shipbuilder are pushing for another one for CVN-82 and CVN-83. But any future block buy will have to receive approval from Congress.

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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