BATH — Navy inspectors discovered issues on a ship built by Bath Iron Works’ main competitor, Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls, earlier this month. But analysts say the competition’s misfortune won’t necessarily give BIW a better shot at future contracts with the Navy.

The Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), which conducts acceptance trials for new ships, found that the future USS Paul Ignatius, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built at Huntington Ingalls, had the lowest overall score of any of the five previous destroyers built at the shipyard, according to a report from Defense News.

The issues included shortcomings in command and control systems, as well as problems in the ship’s air intakes, generators and steering systems. Those problems affected the safety of the ship and must be corrected before delivery.

Comparatively, last year, the Bath-built USS Thomas Hudner, another Arleigh Burke, scored the highest of any destroyer in the history of the program, the INSURV report said.

Bath Iron Works has built 47 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers over the life of the program, which is five more ships than Ingalls, according to USNI News.

Bad news for Huntington Ingalls, the only other shipyard that makes Arleigh Burkes for the Navy, doesn’t mean the Navy will be more inclined to give BIW future contracts to build ships, said Matt Caris, a Navy analyst with Avascent Group in Washington.

“For Bath Iron Works, this is a chance for the shipbuilders to feel good about the work they do and the quality of the ships they build, but they also have their own problems in terms of scheduling they need to focus on,” said Caris. “Bath has two years to improve significantly based on where they are now, and that’s something the Navy is going to be considering when considering future procurements.”

BIW is working to recover from production delays exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the strike of its largest union, which took over half of its shipbuilders out of work for nine weeks over the summer.

The next two ships BIW is scheduled to deliver will be a year or more behind schedule, according to BIW spokesman David Hench.

The USS Daniel Inouye, christened last summer, likely will be completed this winter. Its delivery date to the Navy was initially scheduled for almost a year ago.

Caris also said he believes the Navy inspectors may be scrutinizing Huntington Ingalls more because the shipyard has been “improving significantly in performance since Hurricane Katrina.”

Craig Hooper, CEO of Themistocles Advisory Group, a Maryland-based national security advisory firm, agreed with Caris, adding the Navy’s expectations for the quality of a ship can depend on who is doing the inspecting.

“Often quality is less a factor of the shipyard than of the line-level navy supervisors who sign off on work as it is done,” said Hooper. “If those evaluators are tough and demanding, your shipyard will, by necessity, end up producing a quality ship. If they are lax, workers will build to that standard.”

While Caris believes BIW has to work on recovering its schedule in order to win more Arleigh Burke contracts than Huntington Ingalls, Capt. Brent Sadler, a senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology at the Heritage Foundation, said the Bath shipyard isn’t competing against Huntington Ingalls for future Arleigh Burkes at all.

Instead, Sadler said BIW is competing to win contracts to build the next class of naval warship, which he said will be “a large unmanned surface vessel,” and BIW’s reputation for building well-made ships will help.

Sadler’s prediction echoes what Ambassador Robert O’Brien, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, hinted at last week when he visited BIW and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“In the future, you’ll probably see a mid-sized surface combatant somewhere between the size of the Zumwalt and an Arleigh Burke and the Navy’s working on what that ship would look like, how much it would cost, how we can build it efficiently,” O’Brien said.

Although the game may be changing, Sadler agreed with Caris and Hooper that BIW’s reputation for building good quality ships can only help the company.

“If your product has quality, the user will remember that,” he said.

Hench declined to comment on issues related to Huntington Ingalls.

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