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Carrier decisions could indicate new US administration's naval national security stance, HII CEO says

Decisions the new Biden Administration makes on the makeup and capabilities of the US Navy (USN) aircraft carrier fleet could indicate the USN’s national security priorities, according to Michael Petters, CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), which builds the nation’s nuclear-powered carriers.

“The carrier is in a good place right now relative to how the navy is thinking about what they need for our national security needs going forward,” Petters told investment analysts on 11 February during a quarterly earnings call.

During the Trump Administration, HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding yard, which builds the carriers, secured a two-carrier contract from the navy: the first such deal in decades. However, during that administration, Pentagon and USN officials also supported studies and plans aimed at analysing and potentially reducing the carrier fleet or the size of the ships. However the most recent USN plans called for keeping the carrier design and fleet intact.

”We’re starting from a place where the previous administration was looking at what’s going on in the world and had come to the conclusion that the navy needed some priority in terms of budget allocation, and resources,” Petters noted.

”If anything, I think what’s going on in the world since the election probably just reinforces that view,” he added. “New players will look at that differently and they may have a different set of priorities. We’ll see how that all plays out.”

He pointed out the lead ship of the new Ford class, USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78), has been conducting USN operations as required. “It's been providing training, support, and demonstrating all the new technologies,” he said. “I believe the navy could tell you that it’s been at sea as much as any other ship in the navy last year.”

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