PASCAGOULA, Miss., July 2, 2001 (PRIMEZONE) -- The U.S. Navy has awarded an additional $81.3 million to Ingalls Shipbuilding, a Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) company, for the continuation of work towards the construction of an eighth WASP (LHD 1) Class large-deck multipurpose amphibious assault ship.

Seven of the ships, designed to carry some 2,000 U.S. Marines to world trouble spots, have already been delivered to the Navy by Ingalls, with six of them active in the fleet. USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7) was commissioned in Pensacola, Fla., June 30.

Under the contract modification, Ingalls will purchase materials and begin initial preparations for the construction of selected assemblies and subassemblies. Actual construction of ship assemblies will begin following completion of material procurement and previously funded design work. A contract for full ship construction is expected in early 2002.

"This additional funding for Ingalls to continue preparing to build LHD 8 reflects the strong support for this ship by the Navy/Marine Corps team, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Congress," said Jerry St. Pe, chief operating officer of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS). "Keeping this funding stream active takes full advantage of the active production line at Ingalls, resulting in more efficient, more cost-effective production of the ship and savings of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars over the life of the procurement process for LHD 8," Mr. St. Pe said.

Thus far, Congress has appropriated a total of $880 million in design and material procurement funding for the LHD 8. This includes $460 million in a 2001 fiscal year defense appropriations measure passed last year, in addition to $420 million appropriated in the 1999 and 2000 fiscal years.

Ingalls President Dave Wright said work under the original contract has already begun, noting that this additional funding will fortify continued work towards the construction of the ship.

"This award is one more giant step toward an actual construction contract that will allow us to begin building this important ship in partnership with the Navy," said Mr. Wright.

As the large-deck centerpiece of a Navy/Marine Corps amphibious ready group, LHD's embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support a Marine expeditionary unit. The ships are fully capable of amphibious assault, advance force and special purpose operations, as well as noncombatant evacuation and other humanitarian missions. The ships are 844 feet long and displace 40,500 tons.

Ingalls is part of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, headquartered in Pascagoula, Miss., which also includes the Ship Systems Full Service Center, also located in Pascagoula, as well as Northrop Grumman Avondale Industries, located in New Orleans and Tallulah, La., and Gulfport, Miss. NGSS, which employs more than 17,000 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. NGSS has a firm business backlog exceeding $5.2 billion in a variety of naval and commercial shipbuilding programs.

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