Northrop Grumman Newport News (NGNN), formerly called Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (NNS&DD or simply NNS), is the largest privately owned shipyard in the United States. Northrop Grumman Newport News is one of two shipyards that produce and service all types of nuclear powered submarines (the other is the Electric Boat Corporation), and at present is the only shipyard that can build Nimitz-class supercarriers. NGNN is also home to the largest crane in the western hemisphere. NGNN is located in Newport News, Virginia, and often participates in projects with the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, also located adjacent to Hampton Roads.
Industrialist Collis P. Huntington (1821 – 1900) led the efforts to complete the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) from Richmond, Virginia to the Ohio River in the early 1870s. Although originally built for general commerce, the C&O soon was also used to transport bituminous coal from the previously isolated coalfields adjacent to the New River and the Kanawha River in West Virginia. In the 1880s, an extension of the C&O was built from Richmond down the Virginia Peninsula to reach a new coal pier on Hampton Roads in Warwick County near the small unincorporated community of Newport News. However, building the railroad and coal pier was only the first part of Huntington's dreams for Newport News.
In 1886, he built a shipyard to repair ships servicing this transportation hub. In 1891, Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company delivered its first ship, a tugboat named Dorothy. By 1897, NNS had built three warships for the U.S. Navy: Nashville, Wilmington, and Helena.
In 1906, the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought launched a great naval race worldwide. Between 1907 and 1923, Newport News built six of the U.S. Navy's total of 22 dreadnoughts — Delaware, Texas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Maryland, and West Virginia — and all but the first would still be in active service in World War II.
In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet on its round-the-world voyage. Seven of its 16 battleships were built by NNS. In 1914, NNS built the SS Medina for the Mallory Steamship Company; as the MV Doulos she is now the world's oldest active ocean-faring passenger ship.
By 1940, the Navy had ordered seven more aircraft carriers and four cruisers. During World War II, it built ships as part of the U.S. Government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program, and swiftly filled requests for "Liberty ships" that were needed during the war. It founded North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, an emergency yard on the banks of the Cape Fear River and launched its first Liberty ship before the end of 1941, building 243 ships in all, including 186 Libertys. For its contributions during the war, the Navy awarded the company its "E" pennant for excellence in ship construction.
In the post-war years, NNS built the famous passenger liner SS United States, which set a transatlantic speed record that still stands today. In 1954, NNS, together with Westinghouse and the Navy, developed and built a prototype nuclear reactor for a carrier propulsion system. NNS designed the Enterprise in 1960. In 1959 NNS launched its first nuclear-powered submarine, Shark as well as the ballistic missile submarine Robert E. Lee.
In the 1970s, NNS launched two of the largest tankers ever built in the western hemisphere and also constructed three liquefied natural gas carriers — at over 390,000 deadweight tons, the largest ever built in the United States. In the 1980s, NNS produced a variety of Navy products, including Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers and Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines. The original ship in its class, the USS Nimitz was already well under construction by the early '70's, being built in a drydock at 42nd Street in Downtown Newport News, in full view of most of the downtown area.
Merger with Northrop Grumman
The combination created a $4 billion shipyard now called Northrop Grumman Newport News. The shipyard is a major employer not only for the lower Virginia Peninsula, but portions of Hampton Roads south of the James River and the harbor, portions of the Middle Peninsula region, and even some northeastern counties of North Carolina.
"We shall build good ships here. At a profit - if we can. At a loss - if we must. But always good ships".
Collis Potter Huntington