Northrop Grumman lands contract to build first of new family of Navy warships

Tuesday, April 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Navy's next generation of warships will be designed by a Mississippi-based team that will include many of the nation's top defense contractors.

A team led by Northrop Grumman at its Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., won the $2.9 billion contract Monday to design the new DD-X series of warships. Northrop Grumman and its partners, led by Raytheon Systems Co., also will get the job of designing the communications and electronics systems for the new warship.

Northrop Grumman had been in competition with General Dynamics and its Bath Iron Works in Maine for the project. General Dynamics' main partner was Lockheed Martin.

The winning Northrop Grumman team plans to give some of the work to Lockheed and Bath, said Phil Dur, president of Northrop Grumman's shipbuilding subsidiary.

``This is not going to be a winner-take-all solution to shipbuilding in the future,'' Dur said in a telephone interview.

The Navy has not decided which of the two shipyards will build the first DD-X ship in 2005, said John Young Jr., the Navy's assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition.

``For the Navy to be effective in the future, we need this class of ships,'' Young told a Pentagon news conference.

The DD-X program grew out of the Pentagon's plans for a new destroyer with a stealthy design and guns capable of hitting targets 100 miles inland. But the Defense Department scrapped that program last year amid worries that the ships would have been too big, too vulnerable and too expensive.

Instead of a new type of destroyer, plans call for the DD-X project to spawn an entire family of new, high-tech warships. The new ships will require fewer crew members, be harder to spot by enemy weapons and have the newest computers, communications and weapons available.

The family of ships would include cruisers, which are larger and more heavily armed than destroyers; a smaller, faster kind of destroyer; and an even smaller ship for use in shallower waters. All would use elements of the overall DD-X design, such as similar shapes and materials for the ship's hull.

Dur said he expects the Navy to order about 50 ships from the DD-X family, including about 30 destroyers.

``This is a huge, huge potential program for us,'' Dur said.

Advantages of the Northrop Grumman design include spaces for two helicopters to land at the rear of the ship and space there to launch smaller boats for special operations forces, Young said. Other features include integrated radar systems to track incoming missiles and torpedoes; an integrated computer system that helps run all of the ship's systems and missile launchers; and a double hull to help make the ship harder to sink.