Ingalls Shipbuilding, located in Pascagoula, is a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries that develops and produces technologically advanced, highly capable warships for the surface US Navy fleet, US Coast Guard, US Marine Corps, and foreign and commercial customers. Since its founding in 1938 Ingalls has had a varied building program and has been one of Mississippi’s leading industrial employers.
The company began as the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation, an operation of the Ingalls Iron Works Company of Birmingham, Alabama. Under a five-year exemption from ad valorem taxes granted under Mississippi’s Balance Agriculture with Industry industrial revenue bond program, the shipbuilding facility was constructed on a 160-acre tract on the east bank of the Pascagoula River.
Ingalls has been the state’s largest employer since 1939, when it built its first ship, the cargo ship SS Exchequer, using a technique that revolutionized shipbuilding: the steel plates of the hull were welded end to end rather than overlapped and riveted. The company grew, winning cargo and passenger ship contracts from the US Maritime Commission.
With the onset of World War II Ingalls switched from building commercial ships to building ships for defense. Ingalls operated around the clock during the war, building all types of military vessels. The first ship Ingalls completed for the war effort was the USS Arthur Middleton, a combat-loaded transport launched in December 1941. Ingalls’s aircraft carriers, troopships, and combat, cargo, and passenger vessels sailed around the world. After the war, many of these warships returned to Ingalls to be converted to cargo carriers, and the company resumed building ships for maritime commerce.
In the 1950s Ingalls began production of highly sophisticated ships for the US Navy. In 1952 the shipyard launched the USS Vernon County, the first of five landing ships, tanks under construction for the navy. Three years later the company began to build submarines and established a nuclear power division. In 1957 it received its first submarine contract, producing three navy submarines and twelve nuclear-powered attack submarines. Ingalls’s next naval contract resulted in the production of the destroyers USS Morton and USS Parsons in the late 1950s, and that ship type became the basis of the shipyard’s business for the next three decades.
In 1961 Ingalls was acquired by California-based Litton Systems. By that time Ingalls had produced more than 250 vessels, including more than 200 for the US Navy. Later in the decade the United States sought to build new ships to replace the aging naval fleet and other vessels, and in 1967 Litton announced plans to build a new manufacturing facility on a 611-acre tract of land on the west bank of the Pascagoula River. The Mississippi legislature approved an agreement to enter into a partnership with Litton Industries to sell industrial revenue bonds for the construction of the new shipyard.
Production at the new facility began 12 March 1970 as the shipyard worked to fill two large US Navy contracts to design and build a series of assault ships and multimission destroyers. In addition, the Maritime Administration issued contracts for eight commercial container ships. Between 1975 and 1980 Ingalls delivered 60 percent of all US Navy ships constructed, employing an all-time high of twenty-five thousand people in 1977. In 1978 the US Navy selected Ingalls as lead shipbuilder for the Aegis guided missile cruiser program, and the company built nineteen of the program’s twenty-seven cruisers over the next decade. By 2015 Ingalls was the builder of record for thirty-five Aegis DDG 51 guided missile destroyers.
A US economic downturn in the late 1980s and early 1990s combined with huge cuts in military spending to produce a slump in the shipbuilding industry. Though the navy contracted for fewer ships during the early 1990s, Ingalls continued to produce large, high-tech ships for the service. To augment its defense-related work, Ingalls renewed its efforts to enter the commercial shipbuilding industry and to focus on international expansion. Ingalls had been constructing drilling rigs since the 1950s and in 1998 signed a contract with Zentech to design and construct deepwater jack-up drilling rigs.
In April 2001 Northrop Grumman Corporation, based in Los Angeles, acquired Litton Industries. Under Northrop Grumman’s Ship Systems Division, Ingalls Shipbuilding was renamed Ingalls Operations. In March 2011 Northrop Grumman announced that it would spin off Huntington Ingalls Industries as an independent and publicly traded company. It is the largest supplier of US Navy surface vessels, responsible for building nearly 70 percent of the naval fleet. It is also Mississippi’s largest industrial employer, with about twelve thousand workers.
- GlobalSecurity.org website, www.globalsecurity.org
- R. I. Ingalls Sr., An Address before the Mississippi Press Association, May 21, 1943 (1943)
- Ingalls Shipbuilding website, ingalls.huntingtoningalls.com
- Mississippi, Department of Economic and Community Development, Port of Pascagoula Files, Series 2101, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Northrop Grumman website, www.northropgrumman.com
- Jeffrey L. Rodengen, The Legend of Litton Industries (2000)