Bath Iron Works (BIW) began work on the last of its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers
last month with little public fanfare and not a little private nervousness. The destroyer contract has been the shipyard's lifeline since the first one slid down the ways in 1991, and many folks in the Bath-Brunswick area worried that the yard would see major layoffs as the last ship made its way through the construction pipeline without a new one coming along behind it.
So there was a collective sigh of relief when the navy announced that it was moving up the construction schedule of the new DDG-1000 Zumwalt class of stealthy, high-tech destroyers to fill BIW's construction gap. The yard will build the lead ship in the new line of warships, with Northrup Grumman's Ingalls Shipbuilding facility in Mississippi building the second.
There's been talk for years of trying to shift BIW away from its dependence on military contracts, but the yard can't seem to shake its Pentagon addiction. Nor has it had to. The weapons industry is a booming business
in Maine, as the current issue of Down East
points out. We've been building warships since 1690, when the Falkland
was built on the shore of Piscataquis River for the British Navy. It's one of the ironies of our peaceful state that weapons of war are still a major industry.
Jeff Clark, senior editor and BIW neighbor