"While the carriers are recognized as a national asset, so too is this shipyard and the shipbuilders that are in this yard," Navy Rear Adm. Michael McMahon, program executive office for Aircraft Carriers, said at a ceremony in Newport News, Va.
Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Newport News facility is working on the carrier under a construction preparation contract that allows for engineering, planning, long-lead time material procurement and initial manufacturing to begin before the full construction contract is awarded.
Full construction of the yet unnamed CVN 79 is anticipated to begin in late 2012, with delivery to the U.S. Navy scheduled for 2020.
Construction is under way on the first ship of the class, Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), with about 25 percent of the structural units already in dry dock.
"Having two carriers under construction within a five-year period is the kind of stability that we all benefit from -- the Navy, the shipbuilders, our suppliers and our country," said Matt Mulherin, vice president and general manager for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. "It allows for the most efficient flow of the workforce from one ship to the next, and facilitates a learning curve.
"This stability is key to cost efficiency and to the health of our industrial base," he said.