The U.S. Navy has awarded Bath Iron Works a contract to help design its next generation of destroyers, the shipyard announced Friday.

“Bath Iron Works is eager to bring our cutting-edge engineering and design expertise, now applied to the DDG-51 program, to the next generation” of large surface warships, Bath Iron Works President Chuck Krugh wrote in a statement. “The opportunity to work alongside (Huntington Ingalls Industries) and our industry partners to meet the Navy’s needs for capability, schedule and cost will result in synergies that build on other extremely successful Navy construction programs.”

Huntington Ingalls Industries, which includes Mississippi shipyard Ingalls Shipbuilding, won a similar contract and will collaborate with BIW and the Navy on plans for the DDG(X), which will likely be larger than the 9,700-ton Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyer produced at both shipyards, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. BIW and Huntington Ingalls have been involved in the DDG(X) program since last March, according to the press release.

Sen. Angus King and 2nd District Congressman Jared Golden, both members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, praised the contract, which will run through July 2028 if all options are exercised.

“I’m glad Bath Iron Works will be part of a collaborative partnership helping to design the next generation DDG(X) destroyers,” King said in a statement. “This decision is a strong validation that its leadership can keep costs low, maintain the shipyard’s high production value, and give America’s Navy the tools to address the numerous evolving threats we face around the globe.”

“As the Navy looks beyond the DDG-51 to the DDG(X), it’s promising that Bath has been tasked with this critical design work,” Golden said in a statement.” This multi-year design contract for the DDG(X) will help ensure that the Navy stays on the cutting edge of shipbuilding.”


BIW currently only builds Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, commonly referred to as the “backbone of the Navy.”

The Senate and House Armed Services Committees both included legislation that would authorize a multi-year contract for up to 15 DDG-51s in their markups of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. While that contract could provide several years of stability for the shipyard, Golden told The Times Record in June, finding a role in the next-generation destroyer program remains an important step in securing BIW’s future.

“That’s a critical point for the shipyard,” Golden said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Two decades ago, Bath Iron Works appeared poised to lead a new era of shipbuilding for the Navy, which was preparing to replace the DDG-51 with the much larger DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer. Yet while the Navy originally planned to order at least 32 DDG-1000s, bloated construction costs and questions about the ship’s role in the Naval fleet ultimately killed the project, and BIW turned back to the DDG-51 after building only three Zumwalt-class destroyers.

“Bath put a lot of energy and a lot of effort and a lot of money toward the Zumwalt, only to see the Zumwalt kind of crumble,” said Craig Hooper, a national security consultant who has written about Naval affairs for a number of publications, including his blog NextNavy. “When it was built, it didn’t quite know what it was supposed to be. That’s part of what this (collaborative design) process is trying to avoid.”

Next-gen technology and weaponry, including new sensors, energy weapons, and hypersonic missiles, will require a larger hull than the DDG-51 can provide, Hooper said. By partnering with the Maine and Mississippi shipyards, he added, the Navy hopes to design modern destroyers that can be efficiently built at a reasonable cost.

Yet Hooper also warned that the Navy needs to focus more on defining the future destroyer’s tactical role than on packing the ship with new technology, or another BIW could face another Zumwalt-sized setback.

“What the Navy is not doing is telling Congress or the people what that new ship is going to be used for,” he said. That’s what should concern every naval shipbuilder in the country today — the Navy’s failure, the Pentagon’s failure, to show us what the fleet of the future is going to be. This is a decades-long exercise. We don’t want to end up building three of them.”

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