The Navy has exercised a $643 million contract option to build another destroyer at Bath Iron Works, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine announced Friday night.

BIW, which is owned by General Dynamics, had received a contract in 2012 to build four Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers with an option for a fifth if Congress and the Navy could find additional funding.

The contract approved Friday allows for that fifth destroyer to be built. BIW currently has two of the five destroyers under construction.

The contract brings more stability to the company, which employs about 5,400 people, said Kelley Ammons, a shop steward with the International Association of Machinists Local S6, which represents production workers at the yard.

“We are pretty happy to have the extra work, for sure,” he said. “We are definitely excited if it’s true that we are going to have a fifth ship to build.”

Jim DeMartini, a spokesman for the shipyard,  said the contract will allow BIW to maintain production levels and stabilize employment.

“The delegation;’s continued work to support national defense and what we do at BIW is recognized by all of us and is very much appreciated,” he said.

The contract for the fifth destroyer is part of a 10-ship procurement contract from 2013-2017.

Because the ships are being procured via one multi-year contract, the savings to the Navy and the taxpayers is expected to total more than $1.5 billion, according to the senators’ statement.

Collins and King pushed for an additional $100 million that was required for the Navy to award a contract for the fifth ship. That funding was authorized in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act and included in the Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill signed into law in January by President Obama.

Collins, a Republican, is a senior member of the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee, and King, an independent, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In their joint statement, the senators said they worked for two years to secure the authorization and funding for the extra ship.

“This additional destroyer will not only help add stability to the workforce at BIW and result in greater savings for the taxpayers, but it will also allow the Navy to send another DDG-51 to sea when the Navy’s fleet needs to preserve important combat capabilities now and into the future in support of our national defense,” they said.

The DDG-51 destroyers are the workhorse of the Navy. The Navy considers the newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to be its most capable and survivable surface combatant ship. On-board systems allow groups of ships and aircraft to link their radars to provide a composite picture of the battle space.

“This is excellent news for the men and women who work at BIW and it will help keep workers on the job,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, whose 1st District includes Bath. “That’s important for the families who earn their living at BIW but it’s also important to keep some of the best ship builders in the world employed. We can’t afford to lose their skills and experience and I’m glad this contract has come through to help provide stability at the yard.”

The ship was originally designed to defend against Soviet aircraft, cruise missiles and nuclear attack submarines.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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