Newport News Shipbuilding, the nation's largest shipyard, is Virginia's biggest industrial employer and a core component of the local economy.
On the tip of the Peninsula, the company began operations in 1886, founded by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. The shipyard has gone through several owners, but in 2011 it was spun off from Northrop Grumman as part of a new shipbuilding company, Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., which has its headquarters in Newport News.
It employs about 23,500 people and is home to Virginia's largest labor union, United Steelworkers Local No. 8888.
The company also owns large shipyards on the Gulf Coast.
The shipyard's long history is highlighted prominently in front of executive offices on Washington Avenue, where a restored version of the tugboat Dorothy, built in 1890, stands.
It is the country's sole designer, builder and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, which are based at Naval Station Norfolk, at West Coast bases and in Yokosuka, Japan. It is one of two manufacturers of nuclear-powered submarines.
The shipyard had a busy year in 2013 on all fronts, and 2014 looks to be more of the same.
The yard also performs midlife refueling and overhauls of aircraft carriers, a major job that happens at the midpoint of its 50-year service life. A defense expert at RAND Corp., said it "may be the most challenging engineering and industrial task undertaken anywhere by any organization."
The third leg of the business is submarines. Newport News builds Virginia-class submarines in partnership with Electric Boat of Groton, Conn.
The shipyard christened the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford in November 2013. It is the first of a new class of aircraft carriers designed for the 21st century. The Ford is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2016. Meanwhile, it will remain at the shipyard for additional outfitting and testing.
Major components of the next Ford-class carrier, the John F. Kennedy, are already taking shape.
Newport News employers are also decommissioning the former USS Enterprise, which was retired from service in late 2012. The Enterprise was the world's first nuclear-powered carrier
On midlife refuelings, workers are currently overhauling the USS Abraham Lincoln.
The construction of Virginia-class submarines continues apace. Later in 2014, Newport News is scheduled to christen the submarine John Warner.
Defense budgets are shrinking as the U.S. ends more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. That has put pressure on all major contractors. Huntington Ingalls has responded in part by expanding into other areas where it has expertise.
Early in 2014, Newport News Shipbuilding acquired the Colorado-based S.M. Stoller Corp., which has a history of cleaning up old radioactive and nuclear sites that are leftover from the Cold War. Stoller has site experts such as geologists and chemists, which the shipyard has extensive nuclear engineering expertise.Copyright © 2015, CT Now