Sen. Susan Collins (left) and Sen. Angus King (right) tour Bath Iron Works with Navy Admiral Mike Gilday (center) on Monday. Behind Collins is BIW President Chuck Krugh. Courtesy of Bath Iron Works

After delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and a worker strike, production of destroyer ships at Bath Iron Works is throttling back up, a top Navy official said Monday.

Admiral Mike Gilday, U.S. chief of naval operations, along with Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, toured BIW’s training facilities and manufacturing plants and met with workers.

Gilday said BIW is 30%-60% ahead of schedule in the production of some of the seven ships currently under construction.

“I attribute that to pride, commitment,” Gilday said. “They’re hungry for the work and they sure are delivering.”

The admiral spoke in front of the shipyard’s newest destroyer, the USS Carl M. Levin, which will be commissioned June 24 before heading to its home port in Hawaii to patrol the western Pacific Ocean. The ship is named after the former U.S. senator from Michigan who served for 36 years and was the chairperson of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

BIW President Chuck Krugh attributed to shipyard’s faster production to going “back to basics.”


“Getting leaders out and getting them involved with the employees,” said Krugh, who oversees the shipyard’s roughly 6,500-strong workforce. “We have the best workforce, bar none, in the nation. … You look at what the welders do, what the pipefitters do, it’s absolutely amazing.”

Collins, vice chairperson of the Appropriations Committee and ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, last year helped secure funding for three new destroyers in the next fiscal year that starts in September, but the Navy decided to purchase only two over concerns about production delays. The shipyard in 2020 was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic and a two-month strike by its largest union.

“There’s a potential for that to increase,” Gilday said. “We’d like it to be three a year. … We’re very bullish on destroyers.”

Collins agreed, saying the United States needs to keep up with China’s Navy, which has about 340 battleships compared to 296 for the U.S.

“We need more ships,” Collins said. “The shipyard has made great progress in the last year in improving its scheduled performance and reducing the number of hours that is needed for the very complex work that it does.”

The $858 billion defense bill that President Joe Biden signed in September also gives the Navy the option to purchase 15 destroyers over the next five years.


King, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the destroyers are an important deterrent.

“The whole idea of our national defense policy is deterrence, and any respected adversary knows the power of a ship like this, and if they act adversely to our interests, they are going to feel the might of this amazing ship,” King said.

The $2.2 billion Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that BIW builds carry missiles, torpedoes and machine guns, and have room for two helicopters. The roughly 500-foot ships have a crew of about 400. The destroyers are the only ships that BIW builds; it competes with Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to build the vessels. There are 70 Arleigh Burke destroyers, including 37 built by BIW, in the Navy’s fleet and another 19 under construction.

King said he was recently at a U.S. intelligence center where an interactive map showed every U.S. military asset in the world.

“What struck me was everywhere on the map were (destroyers),” he said. “They were in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic. This is the workhorse of the Navy, and these ships are some of the most important we build.”

BIW is working with Ingalls Shipbuilding on the design for the next-generation destroyer program, the DDG(X), which would replace the Arleigh Burke destroyers. The new destroyers are expected to have hypersonic missiles, lasers and advanced radar. The original successor to the Arleigh Burke destroyer, the Zumwalt-class destroyer, was scrapped in 2022 over concerns about cost overruns. The Navy had ordered dozens of Zumwalts, but BIW only built three before the program was stopped.

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