Northrop Grumman's Pascagoula shipyard builds largest warfare ship

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - With the stroke of a pen, Northrop Grumman signed over one of its newest and most advanced vessels to the Navy Thursday. Construction of the USS Makin Island LHD8 began in 2003, but General Manager Irwin Edenzon said Hurricane Katrina brought work to a halt.

"Katrina set us back a lot, and some of the things that we did in recovering from the storm created some problems we had to deal with," Edenzon said. "We made a commitment to deliver the ship, and we are a month early."

The nearly $2 billion vessel is the eighth in her class, and more than three football fields long.

"This is the biggest ship I have delivered."

Not only is the amphibious ship the largest built, it's also more fuel efficient. It has an electric drive, which can save more than 25 percent on fuel costs.

"It is a big hybrid car. If you think of a big hybrid car at low speeds that typically runs on an electric drive. At high speeds, it runs on its gasoline engine," Commanding Officer Bob Kopas said about the new vessel. "We are the first LHD to be built all electric."

The inside of the ship is just as impressive. The medical floor has state-of-the-art operation rooms and a recovery area. There's even a special office to take care of nagging toothaches.

"Our dentist can do anything your dentist can do," said the ship's tour guide.

The ship also has a huge well deck and a flight deck.  As far as the communication tools, the Makin Island has the best of the best technology.

"This is Star Wars," the tour guide said about the Combat Information Center. "Looking at anywhere in the world as to what's going on from an intelligence standpoint, we can do that."

Crew member and Mississippi native Ken Ballard said he'll be proud to serve on the Pascagoula built ship.

"This one of those ships that will do great things for the country," Ballard said.

The Navy will sail the Makin Island to San Diego for a commissioning ceremony in October.  Northrop Grumman workers are currently building seven new ships at the Pascagoula shipyard.

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