Huntington Ingalls Industries has started advance construction work on the US Navy's third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier with the ceremonial cutting of a 35-ton steel plate of the project, CVN 80.
Under an advance-fabrication contract awarded earlier in the year, the company's Newport News Shipbuilding division commenced the work Thursday.
The Navy expects to award contract for the ship's detail design and construction next year.
"She will be built using digital technology rather than traditional paper work packages and drawings. We will build more of this ship indoors, in new facilities so that our people have more opportunities to work under cover and out of the weather." Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin said in a statement.
CVN 65 is the now-decommissioned USS Enterprise.
Ford-class carriers, which will replace Nimitz-class vessels, feature new nuclear power plants, electromagnetic catapults, improved weapons movement and enhanced flight-deck capabilities.
The second Ford-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, is currently under construction, with more than half of its structural units already erected, Newport News Shipbuilding said.