In a November, 2020 photo, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) sits at Pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding.

In a November, 2020 photo, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) sits at Pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding. (Matt Hildreth/Huntington Ingalls)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The cost of the Navy’s next three carriers is on the rise, due in part for installation of equipment and electronics to handle the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The Navy’s latest 390-page fiscal year 2022 budget justification document calls for increased spending for the carrier John F. Kennedy’s electromagnetic catapult and arresting gear — systems that ran hundreds of millions of dollars over budget for the USS Gerald R Ford, the lead ship for the Navy’s new class of carriers.

All in all, the cost of the Kennedy, now more than 80% complete at Newport News Shipbuilding, will rise by $531 million, or 4.7% from the estimate in last year’s justification document, to $11.93 billion, the Navy now says.

The cost of the third carrier in the Ford class, the Enterprise, will rise $84 million, to $12.41 billion, while the fourth carrier in the class, the Doris Miller, will see a $33 million increase to $12.48 billion. Both ships are under construction at Newport News.

The cost of Kennedy’s basic construction — the hull, structures and mechanical systems, is set to rise by $368 million.

The Navy said this will cover the cost of work to accommodate the F-35 fighters that are succeeding the Navy’s current FA-18 SuperHornets, as well as installing and integrating some of the equipment it is furnishing the ship now that it has moved to single-phase delivery.

The Navy had originally planned to accept delivery of Kennedy in two steps, basically to stretch out payments for the ship. The idea was to avoid having both the Kennedy and USS Nimitz, the carrier it is replacing, in the fleet at the same time. That would have stretched Navy personnel and budgets more than Congress, back in 2016, wanted. The Navy decided to return to a single-step delivery last November, as that concern eased.

Other F-35 related cost increases for the Kennedy include $47 million for electronics systems.

In addition, the Navy is adding $39 million for a government test team and engineering support, now that the Kennedy is set for single phase delivery.

The cost of the Kennedy’s electromagnetic catapult, which is supplied to the shipyard by the Navy, is rising by another $38 million, or 6.3%, from the year ago estimate to $639 million, while its arresting gear cost is up $11 million, or 4.7% to $243 million.

When the Navy first included these system for Ford class carriers, it estimated the cost of the catapult at $318 million and the arresting gear at $75 million. By the time the Ford itself was commissioned, those costs had risen to $670 million for the catapult and $148 million for the arresting gear.

The costs of these two systems for the next two Ford class carriers are steadying, however. The catapult is projected to cost $608 million for the Enterprise and $593 million for the Doris Miller.

Most of the rise in the cost of the Enterprise comes from work related to the F-35, including storage facilities for these planes and some along with $29 million more for electronics systems to cover the addition of the new Joint Precision Aircraft Landing System, the Electronic Consolidated Automated Support System, modifications to the carrier’s ready room and facilities for handling and storing lithium ion batteries.

The increased cost for the Doris Miller comes mainly from the $22 million cost of adding the Joint Precision Aircraft Landing System, ready room modifications and lithium batter facilities, as well as $10 million from the the addition of MK-38 MOD 3 Machine Gun System and a logistics system to support F-35s.

The budget document shows a $299 million, 4% decline in the cost of the two-boat a year Virginia class submarine program, where Newport News have assumed a larger share of the work. Congress last year returned production of Virginia class submarines to a two-a-year pace, rejecting a Trump administration slowdown.

The cost of the first Columbia class ballistic missile submarines, on which Newport News Shipbuilding is building the bow section, stern and sail, rose by $637 million, or 4.4%. Most of this increase comes to cover overall planning and design costs for the new boats.

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