More than half a century ago, a sailor named Dave Williams boarded Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, as a member of the original crew.

He was onboard when the ship responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Later, Williams left the Navy and came to work at Newport News Shipbuilding. But he maintained a relationship with his beloved ship. He worked on CVN 65 various times as shipbuilder, sometimes when it was docked in Norfolk, other times flying across the country or halfway around the world to give it needed attention.

Today, as a new Enterprise (CVN 80) comes to life at NNS, the Williams family is as involved as ever.

Dave’s son, Mike “Chilly” Williams (X36), is among thousands of shipbuilders working on the third Gerald R. Ford-class carrier. Given his family ties, this is much more than a job.

“It’s kind of like a full circle,” said Williams, a lead crane rigger. “That’s how my dad’s career started. He finished up his career at NNS on CVN 65. I’ve already been here 33 years, and toward the end of my career, I’ll be on CVN 80.”

Mike Williams was familiar with Enterprise lore at an early age. His father had a nautical-themed room and photos of CVN 65 on the wall.

“The Enterprise was always an important part of his life, so it was an important part of our lives because of that,” he said.

Dave Williams put aside active-duty service in the Navy to raise his family, but his love for the Navy never waned. In the late 1970s, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve and later retired as a chief petty officer.

When he did his two weeks of active duty at Naval Station Norfolk close to where CVN 65 was docked, while his crew was working on the ship, they got to see their boss in his sailor whites. It earned him the nickname “Sailor Bob.”

Mike Williams came to the shipyard in 1989 and dad, an X11 supervisor, didn’t retire until 2010. He has since passed away, but they managed to work together on the waterfront at times, including when CVN 65 returned to NNS at various times.

Because Mike Williams works in new carrier construction, CVN 80 is now part of his responsibility. “I’m just in the right place,” he said.

You can read more stories like this in NNS Currents

HII showcased the company’s advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) and unmanned/autonomous capabilities for the special operations community at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC 2022).

HII highlighted solutions that will provide enhanced situational awareness and intelligence analysis for Special Operations for both counterterrorism operations and potential conflicts against near-peer adversaries.

“The Special Operations community is seeking to use, influence and shape intelligence, and HII is prepared to provide the artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that deliver multi-lingual search, understanding of a population sentiment, and help to identify false narratives while delivering results at near-real time," said Steven Moore, director of Artificial Intelligence Solutions at HII’s Mission Technologies division.

HII also featured the company’s unique capabilities in unmanned and autonomous platforms which are critical to the future of special operations missions.

Sofic+adm+green+01 Hero

Vice Adm. Collin Green, deputy commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, views a demonstration of HII artificial intelligence platforms that distill and curate the most meaningful data for near real time missions.

HII demonstrations at SOFIC included:

Tactical Edge Sensing and Process

HII’s Nano Cricket technology brings modular, open, high performance computer hardware to the tactical edge, enabling the rapid collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination of tactical data.

AI-Powered Analytics

Ranked as a top 10 federal AI contractor, HII’s AI platforms are market leading analytics solutions designed for enterprise scale and can distill massive data sets to extract the most meaningful information at near real time.

Unmanned Systems

HII is a world leading unmanned systems company with advanced autonomy capabilities for unmanned surface vessels, unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Odyssey, a Suite of Advanced Autonomy Solutions for Platforms in All Domains

HII launched Odyssey™, a suite of advanced autonomy solutions that can turn any vehicle or ship in any domain into an intelligent, robotic platform. Odyssey capabilities include multi-vehicle collaborative autonomy, autonomous health monitoring, sensor fusion and perception.

At HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division, a new pier now under construction in the North Yard will be a crucial piece in the Columbia-Class Submarine Program, where Newport News plays a major supporting role. Construction began about a year ago on the pier, which is just north of Dry Dock 12. It will allow NNS to load Columbia submarine modules onto a barge for transport to General Dynamics Electric Boat, the prime contractor for the program. But that simple description doesn’t do justice to the complexity and breadth of this project. It’s been a rewarding experience for Aaron T. Kenny, the O41 facilities engineer overseeing the work. “We’re building the largest modules we’ve ever shipped out, and we’re utilizing a whole new design for something to carry these modules,” he said. “The engineering being done is amazing.” The new pier will accommodate an Electric Boat barge that is nearly 400 feet long, big enough to carry modules for what will be the Navy’s largest-ever submarine. 

Once assembled, Columbia-class submarines will be slightly longer than the Washington Monument is tall. The barge will not use typical mooring lines to remain at the pier. As Kenny explained, the barge has two transom arms that will lock the barge into place. A pair of pins embedded in the pier will work in concert with the transom arms. The modules will be moved from the Joint Manufacturing Assembly Facility (JMAF), transported down 65th Street and carefully rolled on the barge, which has a series of ballast tanks for stability and proper weight distribution. That entire process will take a full day, Kenny said. Columbia-class submarines are a priority for the Navy. 

They will replace the aging Ohio-class submarines as the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The program is high profile, and NNS’ new pier is gradually getting attention, too. The pier work is one of several expansion projects taking place at NNS. Its construction can be seen when crossing the James River Bridge, and Kenny said they regularly get questions about the pier. “We get a lot of people taking a look at it,” he said. “It is definitely fascinating to be a part of the Columbia program and getting those modules up to our partners at Electric Boat.”

You can find more on this project and other news from Newport News Shipbuilding in this week’s Currents.

what are you looking for?