Ingalls to build two more national security cutters in Pascagoula

Ingalls
Courtesy Ingalls Shipbuilding
The national security cutter Kimball, the seventh NSC from Ingalls Shipbuilding, maneuvers during sea trials last year in the Gulf of Mexico. Midgett, the eighth ship in the series, will be home-ported with Kimball in Honolulu.

Huntington Ingalls Industries has been awarded contracts totaling $930.8 million to build two additional national security cutters (NSCs) in Pascagoula, Miss., for the U.S. Coast Guard. The shipyard has now received contracts for 11 cutters, with eight built to date.

Ingalls’ latest approvals were included in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, signed by President Trump in December. Considered the Coast Guard’s flagships, the NSCs are replacing 12 high-endurance Hamilton-class cutters that have been in service since the 1960s. The 418-foot NSCs are 40 feet longer than the Hamiltons. They have a 54-foot beam, reach a top speed of 28 knots, have a range of 12,000 miles and carry a crew of 120. NSCs can stay at sea for two months.

The 11 vessels awarded to date exceed earlier plans. The Coast Guard’s 2004 list of planned procurements called for eight NSCs to replace the Hamilton-class cutters. But members of Congress, including Mississippi’s now-retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, felt the Coast Guard should keep modernizing its fleet.

Two years ago, because of Trump’s desire to build a Mexican border wall, approvals for new cutters looked unlikely. A ninth cutter, now nearly complete at Pascagoula, was almost canceled. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Ingalls Shipbuilding expects to start fabrication of NSC 10 later this year and will begin NSC 11 late next year, Huntington Ingalls Industries spokesman Bill Glenn said in February. The company’s serial production system benefits from economies of scale.

“We won’t need to hire an additional work force to execute the NSC 10 and 11 contracts,” Glenn said. “Our shipbuilders complete their work on one NSC and then repeat the same work on the next one. They maintain their knowledge of how to build their area or system and are very efficient, doing the same work from ship to ship.” Using this approach, Ingalls delivers NSCs to the Coast Guard cost effectively, he said.

With more than 11,000 workers in Pascagoula, Ingalls is Jackson County’s top employer and one of Mississippi’s largest. The Pascagoula yard builds guided-missile destroyers, amphibious assault ships and smaller amphibious vessels, and it repairs vessels as well. Pascagoula is slated to build six destroyers in the next five years under a Navy contract.

Kimball, the seventh Ingalls-built NSC in the series, was home-ported in Hawaii in December, and will operate from South America to the Bering Sea. The eighth NSC, Midgett, has completed builder’s trials and will have acceptance trials in the second quarter of this year, Glenn said. Midgett will be stationed next to Kimball in Honolulu.

NSC 9, Stone, is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of this year and will be based in Charleston, S.C., Glenn said. NSCs Hamilton and James are also stationed in Charleston, while Alameda, Calif., is home to NSCs Bertholf, Waesche, Stratton and Munro.

Legislators from Southern states have been prominent in keeping pressure on the Trump administration to build more NSCs. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said in December that the new cutters will assist the Coast Guard as it protects U.S. shores, disrupts international crime networks, and stops the nation’s drug influx.

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