Gulfport Composites Facility
Also under the Avondale umbrella is NGSS' Composites Center of Excellence located in Gulfport, Mississippi. The Gulfport Composites Facility is one of the largest, most comprehensive and most experienced composite manufacturing facilities in the United States, utilizing a wide variety of state of the art composites fabrication manufacturing techniques and material systems. The facility is located on a 125 acre waterfront tract, and has over 350,000 square feet of enclosed manufacturing area including over 150,000 square feet of climate controlled area. The NGSS Gulfport facility is in its second decade of composites manufacturing operations, and has a lengthy and successful history in military composites programs including the DD()X 21st century surface combatant program, the SAN ANTONIO (LPD 17) Class of amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Navy's Coastal Mine Hunter (MHC), CHSV and Lighter Barge Programs, and the USCG Deepwater Program.
In the 1990s, it took about a year to build a single composite-hulled, Osprey-class (MHC 51) minehunter at the Gulfport facility, at the time owned by Avondale Industries Inc. Outfitting and testing each of the four that were built required another year. When Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) acquired the site, the company decided to use the facility to work simultaneously on four all-composite Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) and deliver four or five per year.
On June 9, 2003 Northrop Grumman broke ground on a $64 million modernization project at its Ship Systems sector's Gulfport Operations, which will create the first large-scale advanced composite manufacturing facility to produce U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships. Officials participating in the Ship Systems sector ceremony were, John B. (Jay) Foley III, vice president, Ship Systems Gulfport Operations, Ship Systems President Dr. Philip A. Dur, Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and state Rep. Frances Fredericks. The modernization dedicated $30 million to increasing capacity for composite construction, $19 million for ship construction and outfitting improvements, $8 million for additional support facilities, and $7 million to upgrade distributive systems.
Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, principal speaker at the ceremony, told more than 200 guests and shipbuilders in attendance about the partnership between Northrop Grumman and the state and how this expansion project will economically benefit all parties involved.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is one of the leading designers of an all-composite Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the Navy. The company bid to become the sole manufacturer of this 21st century ship at its Gulfport Operations, which the company has designated its Composite Manufacturing Center of Excellence. Composite technology is revolutionizing the shipbuilding industry. Composite materials are stiffer and stronger by weight than steel and aluminum counterparts, and result in a lighter weight ship that will save the Navy thousands of gallons of fuel.
This facility creates a future for shipbuilding on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Musgrove and the Mississippi Legislature were instrumental in securing a $48 million bond issue to complement Northrop Grumman's capital investment for Ingalls Operations in Pascagoula and the Gulfport facility.
These facilities are the first phase of a project for Gulfport Operations designed not only to increase output in composites, but also to vastly improve the quality of service for the dedicated shipbuilders here. This mission required countless hours of planning, meeting and negotiating and without the leadership of the governor's office, the legislature, the Mississippi Development Authority and other organizations, this project would never have gotten started.
Since becoming a part of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in 2001, Gulfport Operations has become one of the premier composite manufacturing operations in the nation, contributing to such Ship Systems programs as the LPD, DD(X), USCG Deepwater, Composite Hi-Speed Vessel, and future surface combatants, as well as the LCS program.
Gulfport is focusing on construction of the revolutionary Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor masts for the San Antonio (LPD 17)-class of amphibious transport dock ships under construction at Ship Systems' operations in New Orleans, La., and Pascagoula, Miss. These masts are the largest composite structures ever installed on a U.S. Navy ship.
Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems sector includes primary operations in Pascagoula and Gulfport, Miss.; New Orleans and Tallulah, La.; as well as a network of fleet support offices in the U.S. and Japan. The sector, which currently employs more than 18,000 shipbuilding professionals, primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana, is one of the nation's leading full service systems companies for the design, engineering, construction, and life cycle support of major surface ships for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and international navies, and for commercial vessels of all types.
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