Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has come to agreement with Huntington Ingalls Industries for the next two Ford-class aircraft carriers, the company said on Wednesday.
The vessels will be the third and fourth Ford-class carriers in the Navy's fleet and are expected to come in at a cost of roughly $26 billion, based on the first vessels in the class, though HII expects the new deal to bring down the per-ship cost.
"We are please to have come to an agreement with the Navy regarding a two-ship acquisition approach for CVN 80 and 81, a significant step toward building these ships more affordably," Beci Brenton, a spokewoman for HII, told UPI via email.
Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., confirmed the award on Monday for the two carriers, which the two U.S. senators said would also help solidify the shipbuilding industry in Newport News, Va., where both vessels are expected to be produced.
"I'm thrilled the Navy has decided to pursue a block buy for aircraft carriers, something I've been advocating to save billions in taxpayer dollars," Kaine said in a statement.
Warner also expressed support for the move, saying in a statement that the deal is "not only important for the men and women of the Newport News shipbuilding industry, it also makes a critical investment in our nation's defense by ensuring the Navy has the capabilities to combat any adversary."
Both senators said the block buy decision will save time and money, stabilize work schedules at shipyards and put the ships under a construction cap, imposed by Congress, of $12.9 billion each. The block-buying process, in the case of the two aircraft carriers, is expected to save the Navy $4 billion.
The Ford-class carriers are expected to replace the Nimitz-class used by the U.S. Navy for over 40 years. One, the USS Gerald R. Ford, has been in active service since 2017. The second, the USS John F. Kennedy, is expected to be commissioned in 2024.
Of the next two vessels, the third, CVN 80, will be named the USS Enterprise -- the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name -- while CVN 81 has not yet been named.
The Ford-class carriers are nuclear-powered and feature a redesigned command center, known on an aircraft carrier as an island, the electromagnetic aircraft launch system, improved weapons movement and an enhanced flight deck capable of increased aircraft sortie rates.
HII was the primary contractor on the first Ford-class aircraft carrier.
"Although there is more work to be done it is important to note that the multi-ship purchase of aircraft carriers helps stabilize the Newport News Shipbuilding workforce, enables the purchase of material in quantity, and permits a fragile supplier base of more than 2,000 in 46 states to phase work more efficiently," Brenton said.