Secretary of the Navy visits Newport News Shipbuilding

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visits Newport News Shipbuilding on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo: Larry Carney)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus says Thursday’s missile launch from a Norfolk-based ship on rebels sites in Yemen shows the need for a broad-based naval presence around the world.

U.S. launches strikes in Yemen after missiles aimed at American ships

Mabus visited Newport News Shipbuilding at Huntington Ingalls Industries Thursday, and checked the progress on the Navy’s newest carrier, the Gerald R Ford.

Norfolk-based USS Nitze launched Tomahawk cruise missiles early Thursday, destroying radar sites held be Houthi rebels on Yemen’s west coast. Mabus says this shows the value of having the Navy where it needs to be.

“We didn’t know this was coming, but we had the assets there that we needed to deal with it.”

The strikes followed two incidents earlier this week where missiles were fired at the Norfolk-based USS Mason, but did not hit the ship.

Missiles fired from rebel-held Yemen land near Norfolk-based USS Mason

Mabus also saluted the shipbuilders of Newport News for the dozens of ships that have gone under contract during his tenure.

“We’ve done it with a smaller budget a smaller top line. And a lot of the credit is due to the great ship deal builders here.”

He talked about the delays for the Gerald R Ford, and said it was the defense department trying to put too much technology in one new ship. Mabus would not commit to any delivery date for the carrier, which is already more than a year behind schedule and nearly $2 billion over budget.

Mabus’ visit to Newport News falls on the Navy’s 241st birthday, as well as Fleet Week in Hampton Roads.

Mabus says the Navy and Marine Corps are America’s “away team” — always ready to defend American interests around the world, and called his tenure as Navy secretary the “greatest honor of my life.” Mabus has served for seven years, longer than any secretary since World War I.