Norfolk to gain new aircraft carrier and 2 other ships

By Bill Bartel
The Virginian-Pilot


The Navy is expected to homeport its newest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, in Norfolk – enlarging the region’s carrier fleet by one – while also possibly moving two amphibious assault ships to Hampton Roads, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner’s office said today.

The changes mean the region will gain thousands of sailors as well as lucrative private supply and construction contracts that are a key part of Hampton Roads’ military-dependent economy. Warner was briefed about the changes by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

The Ford – now under construction at Newport News Shipbulding – is expected to be added to the Navy’s fleet in early 2016. It would remain in the region at least for the next five years under the Navy’s long-range plans, Warner’s office said.

The change means five carriers would be homeported in Norfolk with a sixth carrier at Newport News Shipbuilding undergoing a mid-life overhaul.

The addition of the two amphibious ships to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek reverses the Navy’s plans to eventually withdraw all amphibious vessels from the base. Two are homeported there today.

But after spending $30 million to repair major electrical supply problems at Little Creek, the Navy has decided to add two more vessels to the base, Warner’s office said. It is not clear if the ships would be shifted from elswhere in the region or from other locations.

The effort to boost the Navy’s operations in the region is part of a joint effort by Warner and other members of the region’s congressional delegation as well as local government leaders, Warner’s office said.

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