The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) will remain stationed at a maintenance facility in Bremerton, Wash., through fiscal year 2019 to avoid a back-and-forth between Bremerton and nearby Everett for the crew and their families.
Nimitz, the Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier, has been pushed harder than much of the rest of the fleet in recent years, creating a maintenance backlog that the Navy began to address this year. The Navy inserted a 16-month Extended Planned Incremental Availability (EPIA) into the ship’s schedule, so Nimitz left its Naval Station Everett homeport in January to come to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility for that maintenance period. The ship will also go to its regularly scheduled docked maintenance period in Fiscal Year 2018 – though the Navy had originally thought the ship and its crew would return to Everett for the intervening year or so. Doing so, however, would create three homeport changes in the next four years, after Nimitz has already had three changes in the last five years.
“The prospect of successive homeport changes and the inevitable impact on sailors and their families resulted in my decision to extend the temporary stationing of USS Nimitz in Bremerton,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement Tuesday.
The vast majority of Nimitz’s approximately 3,100 sailors and their families reside in the Bremerton area, according to a Navy statement, which is about a two-hour drive from Naval Station Everett. Rather than commute four hours a day or move their families to Everett for one year, “sailors can now continue to focus on training and getting the ship ready for future missions without the added stress of relocating themselves and their families,” Nimitz Commanding Officer Capt. John Ring said in the statement.
Because it is somewhat unusual to have a ship homeported at the intermediate maintenance facility outside of a drydocking period, the Navy statement makes clear that Nimitz will move back to Everett at the earliest possible opportunity after the FY 2018 availability ends.
Nimitz was homeported in San Diego until it came to Bremerton for maintenance in December 2010. It was afterwards homeported in Everett until moving back to Bremerton in January for the previously unplanned EPIA.
Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers Rear Adm. Tom Moore said in a House Armed Services Committee hearing in November that Nimitz and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), the two oldest ships in the fleet, have been run particularly hard since USS Enterprise (CVN-65) decommissioned three years ago. As a result, Nimitz will undergo three year’s worth of maintenance in about a four-year period to make up for some of the work that was skipped to allow for the high tempo of operations (optempo),
“We really run her at a higher op-tempo than some of the other carriers, so of the availabilities we have going on right now I would tell you that the Nimitz one up in Bremerton is the most challenging in terms of the size of the work package,” Moore said at the hearing. The EPIA and the regularly scheduled PIA together represent “a significant amount of maintenance done on her to try to catch back up.”