The First Cut of Steel ceremony that was recently held in Newport News signaled the official start of construction for the new warship called USS Doris Miller (CVN-81), the fourth Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy.
According to military writer Peter Suciu, Thomas Bledsoe, the great-nephew of the ship’s namesake, was given the honor to give the order to “cut the steel” to shipbuilder Gerald Bish.
“Today we recognize the start of construction of the fourth ship of the Gerald R. Ford-class,” Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, said during the ceremony.
“From this day forward, our shipbuilders will put their hearts into every pipe they fit, every unit they lift and every inch of steel they weld. Shipbuilders, I thank you for the hard work, innovation and dedication you will put into transforming this first piece of steel into an awe-inspiring aircraft carrier,” she continued.
The USS Doris Miller is slated to be the fourth Ford-class carrier and the second ship to honor Miller—with the first one being the currently retired Knox-class destroyer, USS Miller.
The carrier is also the first one to be named after an African-American. Miller was a U.S. Navy cook third class who was credited with heroic actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest decoration for valor in combat after the Medal of Honor.
“It is so fitting and timely during a period of significant discussion and change we come together to begin construction of one of our Navy’s next great aircraft carriers, in the name of one of the finest heroes of the greatest generation,” noted Rear Adm. James Downey, the program executive officer for aircraft carriers.
“We will construct a sound and mighty warship worthy of his legacy,” he added.
According to Suciu, “this is the second ship of the two-carrier contract awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), which is the lead contractor of the warship. HII, which will build the carrier at its Newport News facilities, was also awarded the contract in January 2019 for detail and construction of the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80).”
Early Stages of Construction
Currently, Newport News is in the midst of early stages of manufacturing of the Doris Miller, which includes structural fabrication and shop work.
“The ship will be the second aircraft carrier to be built completely using digital drawings and procedures rather than traditional paper work packages and products,” Suciu added.
The ship’s keel has been scheduled to be laid down in 2026, and the expected delivery to the U.S. Navy will occur in 2032.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.