Home » Budget Industry » USS George Washington Begins Midlife Refueling, Overhaul With Benefit of Lessons From 5 Previous Aircraft Carriers


USS George Washington Begins Midlife Refueling, Overhaul With Benefit of Lessons From 5 Previous Aircraft Carriers

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) is towed by tug boats to its new homeport in Newport News, Va., on Aug. 4, 2017. George Washington changed homeports to support the ship’s refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) maintenance at Newport News Shipyard. US Navy photo.

Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73) began a 48-month Refueling and Complex Overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding earlier this month after serving for seven years as the forward-deployed carrier in Japan, creating a somewhat unique work package for the Navy’s sixth-ever RCOH.

Chris Miner, vice president of In-Service Aircraft Carrier Programs, told USNI News that George Washington’s operations out of Yokosuka, Japan, from 2008 to 2015 both simplifies and complicates the work package for the mid-life maintenance, modernization and refueling event.

While serving as the Forward Deployed Naval Force (FDNF) carrier, George Washington would conduct a couple shorter deployments each year and then go into a short annual maintenance availability, compared to the rest of the carrier fleet that goes through a three-year cycle of a major maintenance availability, training, and a six- or seven-month deployment. That FDNF carrier, then, gets more frequent routine maintenance on hull, mechanical and electrical systems, but the shipyard in Japan cannot conduct all the work on the nuclear propulsion system that a yard in the United States can.

“Because she’s on a difference maintenance cycle … there’s two aspects to that – one, in some cases because of that different maintenance frequency, there’s some areas we expect we’ll see less growth work; in other words, the ship will be in better condition. Most of that would be outside the propulsion plant,” Miner said.
“And then in other cases there’s work that it’s not really suited to be performed while it’s in Japan, so we’ll do that work during this availability. So again, I really can’t go into the details of that aspect of the work, it’s just that that work is more suited for us to do here in Newport News versus the situation they had in Japan.”

Due to the additional propulsion plant work required during this RCOH, Newport News Shipbuilding began an “early smart start” phase in January, consisting of about 500,000 man hours of work at Naval Station Norfolk to begin prepping the ship for RCOH and tearing out furniture, equipment and ship systems to be refurbished, replaced or simply stored in a warehouse until the ship returns to the fleet. For the last carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), that smart start period lasted only four months instead of the seven months for George Washington.

Miner said Newport News Shipbuilding had a “robust” program to capture lessons learned from each RCOH and was implementing several changes with GW that would save time and money.

“On 72 we discovered the catapult trough walls – we normally overhaul the entire catapult system – the catapult trough walls had more deterioration than we had seen in the past,” Miner said, noting that the Newport News Shipbuilding team didn’t make that discovery until the RCOH had already begun.
“So there’s a lesson learned. That wasn’t part of the plan for 72, that was a discovery item that we had to react to. For 73, we got in early, recognized it had the same issues, and from a lessons learned perspective we could get ahead of that, plan for it, have the new steel already being made in our shops. And as part of that we basically take the catapults while (the aircraft carrier) was still in Norfolk for the early smart start period, we take them down, pull all the cylinders out, send them off to get refurbished, and then get all the insulation off the trough walls. We actually blasted the trough walls so we could see how bad the damage was and basically get ahead of that.”

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) begins the transit to Newport News, Va., on Aug. 4, 2017, to begin a refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) maintenance at Newport News Shipyard. US Navy photo.

Similarly, on Lincoln Newport News planned to test the ship’s rudders as a precaution but assumed they would be fine.

“What happened was, when we did the test it failed. That required us to take on emergent work, which required pulling out rudders and reworking them, which is fairly significant work to do that,” Miner said.
“So that was emergent work that caused some churn in our plan on 72. So what we’ve done on 73, instead of just expecting them to be okay, we actually planned to rework them if necessary, if the test fails, and have the resources already identified that would do the work, the material that’s required to support that work … and to include that work in our schedule so it won’t cause as much churn to the overall schedule if in fact that has to be done. If it doesn’t have to be done, it’s easier for us to back that out, and it actually provides us an opportunity to do better on schedule rather than it causing problems.”

Newport News Shipbuilding is also applying new technologies to make the RCOH planning and execution more efficient.

Miner said the company used laser scanning technology for planning the CVN-73 RCOH and is already using it for CVN-74.

“Nimitz (class of aircraft carrier) was designed on paper, so we’ve done a significant amount of scanning. So a ship check: we used to send hundreds of people to go manually track systems, do drawings and everything. 73 – and it was a forward deployed carrier, it was in Yokosuka – so think about the cost of sending hundreds of people to Yokosuka, Japan, to manually ship check all these systems,” Miner said.
“So on 73 we used the laser scanning technology, sent a significantly smaller team, were able to use the scanners to scan systems and bring those back and use them to build our work packages. And between just the cost of scanning, the people we didn’t need, and the travel costs, we saved on the order of $2 million, a couple million dollars, just in the ship checking cost.”

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) conducts high-speed turn drills in the Atlantic Ocean during sea trials on May 11, 2017. Abraham Lincoln is underway after successfully completing it’s mid-life refueling and complex overhaul and will spend several days conducting comprehensive tests of many of the ship’s key systems and technologies. US Navy photo.

Miner said other changes for George Washington include new manufacturing processes, such as a change that will allow the new radar mast to be constructed in a single piece instead of in two parts, and allow that mast to be laid on its side to be outfitted with cables and insulation and paint, rather than installed in two pieces and then outfitted on the ship. Additionally, the blocking on the dry dock was re-engineered so the carrier will actually be held six feet up in the air instead of just five feet from the bottom of the dry dock, allowing more workers to walk underneath comfortably.

“Now you can walk, someone my height can walk under the ship without bending over – that means the workers that are down there are in a more comfortable position, it gives us more room to hang better lighting to make it a better environment for our folks to work, gives us room to run cables and other services. … It’s just really opened up a whole lot of things we can do to make it a better work environment for our team.”

Newport News Shipbuilding and the Navy are still finalizing the RCOH execution contract, but Miner said they have a handshake agreement now and are just going through final formalities. The contract should be signed in the coming weeks, and he said work at the shipyard is taking place today under the planning contract. The carrier entered Dry Dock 11 on Aug. 4, and the team is still in the rip-out phase. Eventually the shipbuilder will begin cutting holes into the hull to access tanks and other spaces that need to be blasted and coated, and cutting one large hole down the center of the ship, from top to bottom, to give the team access to the propulsion plant. In total, Miner said, about 35 percent of all maintenance and modernization work the carrier will ever get in its 50-year service life will take place during this four-year RCOH.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Very noob question probably:

    Do the crew just get rotated to another carrier?

    • muzzleloader

      Generally speaking, no. A large portion of the crew will be hands on involved in the ship overhaul, depending on the department they work in. Many of the crew will be living on a dormitory barge adjacent to the ship, or living in town, and will be working long hours doing various tasks all over thier ship.
      One aspect of being on a ship involved in a SLEP, is although the work is hard with long hours involved, the personnel at least know that for 4 years they get to go home every night.

      • Rocco

        It was the worst duty I had in Philadelphia back 40 yrs ago!!

        • Was that the PNSY retubing fiasco?

          • Rocco

            Yes aboard CV-59

          • You have my sympathy.

          • Rocco

            Thanks!! We really need to pray for the young men in today’s Navy. 20+ men dead due to stupid procedures in 2 major insidence + 2 others!!

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        Thanks, I assumed the ship was handed over to the personnel of the ship yard and the crew went elsewhere.

        • USNVO

          Generally, they won’t be as fully manned as normal. Some sailors will leave at their PRD and may not be replaced for a year or two since the ship moves to the bottom of the priority list. They will be brought back up to full manning as the avail is getting closer to the end.

      • NavySubNuke

        I had a buddy who survived a tour refueling an OHIO — I think years of doing nothing but approving tagouts and work packages while standing shipyard duty officer would have killed me but he loved the stability of being home every night.

        • El Kabong

          Choose a career. Live the adventure. 😉

        • muzzleloader

          And to think that a lot of the 1st enlistment sailors will spend their entire hitch in dry dock, ugh!

    • Rocco

      Does the crew!!!! The air wing leaves !! Back to their base. Ship’s company stays unless a Sailor wants to transfer!!

  • BlueSky47

    I’m surprise Duane is not here complaining about how ineffective and expensive aircraft carriers are and saying “the LCS can replace the aircraft carrier, it’s the only ship than can carry the UAV, the the best littorial ship on the planet-bar none, it’s has tremendous capabilties, more so than an aircraft carrier, blah blah blah”

    • NavySubNuke

      And it is only going to get better with time too. Just keep dumping infinite money, time, and sailors into that black hole and what comes out will be so amazing that the entire Chinese Navy will surrender the instant one pulls within 100 miles of Hong Kong!

      • David Oldham

        INFINITE? Hyperbole is the refuge of a liar, you do know that.

        • NavySubNuke

          Sarcasm isn’t your strong suit I guess – no worries, have a GREAT day!

        • El Kabong

          You’re new around here I see.

          Might want to read a few comment threads FIRST, to figure out who’s who, before making snide comments.

          Otherwise, you’ll be relegated to the “Duane” pile.

    • El Kabong

      Give it a minute…

  • david

    How is that radioactive decontamination coming along with the George Washington. Let’s see it was docked 60 clicks south of Tokyo in 2011 but in 2016 it is still so hot it has to be gutted. Hmm makes you wonder about Tokyo now doesn’t it.

    • NavySubNuke

      LOL. Hey David — don’t forget to put an extra wrap of tin foil on your hat before you go to bed — your brainwaves are easier to manipulate when you are sleeping after all.
      You really should be more careful about where you get your news — there is no contamination on GW. The reason they are gutting the ship is to get out their own radioactive waste and refill the reactors with fresh fuel.

      • david

        OH really So Marine Log .com is a conspiracy site.
        – Earlier this year, defense media reported Navy officials as saying that 16 ships remained contaminated with low levels of radiation five years after taking in part in relief efforts following Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster.
        Who’s your daddy now????

        Among those ships was the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and funding for remediation of the Fukushima contamination is included in a $194,802,989 contract modification awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) to extend the period of performance from 12 months to 18 months for continued advance planning of the refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) of the carrier
        (((www))).marinelog.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=22376:cvn-73-rcoh-to-include-post-fukushima-decontamination&Itemid=257

        • NavySubNuke

          Oh now you have convinced me — “defense media” sites not referenced or sourced in anyway —- how convincing!!

          • david

            No need to argue with idiots. Stars and Stripes reported and multiple other websites. Why do you think they sailed out to sea with a skeleton crew to avoid the plume fool? Why do you think Japan and Korea wouldn’t let the Reagan dock ???? Research Operation Cross Roads and then come and apologize.

          • NavySubNuke

            You are right there is no need to argue with people like you — but it sure is entertaining so I do it anyway.
            But please do keep it up — I love this conspiracy theory nut job stuff you people come up with and try to get the rest of us to believe.

          • david

            Hey Numb Nutz explain how sailors who are boarding ships after operation Tomochadai are getting cancers THAT ARE ONLY CAUSED by radiation exposure. Go ahead I will wait.

            ven sailors who joined the 7th Fleet immediately after Operation Tomodachi say they were affected. “I was on board the USS Germantown,” said former sailor Thomas McCants, who joined the 7th Fleet as a gunner’s mate right after the Japanese mission of mercy.

            Like his identical twin, McCants says he’d always been the picture of health; an athletic teenager who competed in varsity sports and loved the Navy. “I wanted nothing more than to travel the world and get to see it for myself and serve my country.” But McCants says after just a few months aboard the Germantown he grew sicker and sicker. He says he had no appetite and battled constant fatigue. He went to his superior, “and I broke down into tears and I said, ‘Senior Chief, I’m sick. I need help. Something’s wrong.’ ”

            But McCants says rather than sending him to a doctor or doing any medical tests, the Navy sent him to a psychologist and then offered an honorable discharge, which he took. “I felt like a total failure,” McCants said.

            But McCants’ symptoms continued to worsen, and after a civilian doctor took blood tests, he had a diagnosis: chronic myeloid leukemia or CML. McCants says the doctor’s first question was if he’d ever been exposed to massive amounts of radiation. His answer? “The only time that I have ever had a chance of being exposed to radiation in my entire life is from Japan.”

            komonews(dot)com/archive/fukushima-fallout-whats-next-for-sailors-who-were-exposed

          • NavySubNuke

            Oh my God — a single anecdote —- now I am totally convinced!!! Oh sweetie — you do realize the Navy had monitoring equipment on all those ships and checked them for contamination before, during, and after right? We’ve been operating mobile nuclear power plants for over 50 years — we know just a little bit about radiation and radioactive contamination.
            I realize stories like this are always attractive to the less intelligent and less informed who will believe anything with a scary enough headline but those of us who have actually served realize all of that nonsense is just nonsense.

    • David Oldham

      What are you babbling about…..geez lunatic fringe here today.

      • david

        And you know what other 2 ships were contaminated during operation Tomodachi??? The USS Fitzgerald and the USS John Mcstain. Coincidence???? You might want to research Operation Cross Roads then come back and apologize for your insolence.

  • Kemosabe

    48 months! Longer then it took us to fight WW2. We have developed a too complicated, expensive and dated fleet. CVNs are as relevant today as BBs in 1945

    • NavySubNuke

      Excellent point. We need to get back to a simpler time. We should immediately halt all construction of these new fangled fancy ships and go back to a force that consists only of Fletcher class destroyers, Baltimore class cruisers, and Essex class carriers that carry nothing but hellcats, corsairs, and avengers.
      If that force was good enough to win WWII it will make mincemeat of any current navy!!! Complicated things like missiles, jets, and nuclear power is unnecessary and only for sissies!

      • Kemosabe

        Why stop there. USS Constitution is still in commission. Make more like her, she is the ultimate in stealth ship design and no fuel costs to boot.
        CVNs are obsolete and most of our ships are irrelevant to current needs and do not reflect technological changes.
        A 48 month overhaul is laughable.

        • NavySubNuke

          Be serious man — it took almost 36 months to construct the Constitution — by your reckoning that makes her complete garbage!
          If you are going to invent a false version of reality where CVNs are irrelevant and refueling two massive (and mobile) nuclear reactors is a simple and easy task — never mind all the other maintenance the carrier will undergo to get it ready for 20+ more years of operations — at least stick to some basic ground rules.

      • muzzleloader

        And none of those ships and planes would be subject to cyber attack either! LOL

        • NavySubNuke

          Another excellent point — and lets not forget that their vacuum tube radars and radios can withstand any EMP the North Koreans could possibly throw at them.
          Just think of how much cheaper the Air Force 1 replacement would be if we didn’t have all those fancy electronics and instead went with a purely mechanical solution that utilized vacuum tubes in the few places that electronics were actually required!!

          • muzzleloader

            They could pull Harry Truman’s VC-118 out of the museum and put it back in service!

          • You want rugged – how about magamps (magnetic amplifiers), synchros and resolvers. Build it like the WW II TDC (Torpedo Data Computer) Mk III and it will even survive a close aboard depth charge attack – check the USS Pampanito site.

    • David Oldham

      and I bet you thought putting guns on F-4 Phantoms was dated also.

  • publius_maximus_III

    I assume the refurbishment work will be staged in such a way that, in an emergency, the carrier could be made available in less than four years? I’ll assume any “must do” work like refueling, catapult rebuilds, rudder refurbs, and the like will take place closer to the beginning, while other “like to do” things (elimination of all urinals — only joking, scraping and painting inside and out) deferred closer to the end of the 4-year cycle, just in case Mr. Phat Phok Kim decides to lob some nukes in our direction.

    • USNVO

      You know what happens when you assume things. The long pole in the tent items are still the long poles in the tent. You can speed things up somewhat if you throw more resources at it. For instances, they have to cut huge access holes down from the flight deck to get to the reactors, then they have to refuel and refurbish, finally they have to fix everything they cut away. Lincoln and Washington were the first ships with the improved side protection system so that is not a simple evolution. You inherently have to wait on some work until there is a ship back in place to do the work on.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Yes, and mine have made one of ME, not U.

        Doesn’t sound quite as simple as replacing the car battery. You don’t have to worry about sailing around the world for years without ever needing any fuel. But then it eventually comes time to pay the piper: Four years of waiting in line at the “gas pump”.