Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) arrived at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard yesterday to begin a short maintenance period following significant underway time since 2018.
Truman has had a busy last three years: In July 2017, the carrier left Norfolk Naval Shipyard to head to the nearby Naval Station Norfolk after completing a 10-month planned incremental availability. In 2018, the carrier deployed in April, came home in July for a “working port call” in Norfolk, Va., left again for the second half of the deployment in August, and finally returned home in December. The carrier and its strike group spent the deployment in U.S. 6th Fleet, conduction operations everywhere from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle.
Truman was then set to deploy again in September 2019, but the carrier was sidelined at the last minute due to an electrical system failure. The strike group’s combatants deployed in September as a surface action group, and Truman deployed in late November and joined them in the Middle East.
After all that at-sea time, Truman had to stay off the coast of Virginia this spring instead of coming home after deployment. The Navy had no other certified carrier strike groups at home at the time that could respond to an emergency, and the Navy couldn’t risk Truman becoming non-deployable due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Truman stayed safely at sea until the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group deployed in June.
According to a Navy news release on Truman‘s return home to Norfolk, “Truman has spent at least one day underway for 32 of the last 36 months, in direct support of global security around the world.”
Despite all the at-sea time over the last three years, Truman will be going through a short maintenance availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
Referencing the 28-month availability that USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) is going through right now at NNSY, a June 7 Navy news release explains that, “Coming off a seven-month deployment, Truman now joins USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) as the second carrier on the NNSY waterfront. If the Bush’s Drydocking Planned Incremental Availability is a marathon involving extensive maintenance, then Truman’s availability is more of a sprint, requiring approximately 208,000 workdays of maintenance and expected to complete in a matter of months.” For comparison, Bush’s DPIA will require 775,000 man-days and will span 28 months, though the length for Bush is partly due to a lack of capacity at NNSY to complete the work on a faster timeline.
The Navy did not respond to a USNI News query regarding how this “extended carrier incremental availability” that Truman is about to start differs from the traditional planned incremental availability (PIA) that a carrier typically conducts at the end of the three-year deployment cycle. The Navy did not comment on what work is included in this extended carrier incremental availability or why the Navy picked this type of shorter availability for the carrier.
A 2017 RAND study notes that carriers typically conduct two pier-side PIAs and then a more extensive docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) in the dry dock as the ships move through their lifecycle.
Truman went through a 10-month PIA from 2016 to 2017; a carrier incremental availability from November 2014 to May 2015; and its last docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) from March 2011 to July 2012, according to data collected by USNI News.
In addition, the carrier conducted a short three-month continuous maintenance availability (CMAV) period at Naval Station Norfolk – a less extensive activity done at the home station, not at the naval shipyard – from December 2018 to March 2019, as a touchup between the two deployments.
The news release adds that Bush and Truman would be docked at the same pier later this summer, in the first time NNSY has had two carriers share a pier. Bush is currently in a dry dock but will join Truman when it comes out of the dry dock. The Navy also did not answer USNI News questions regarding why the two carriers will share a pier in a first for the yard.
The ability for the yard to get Truman back out on time will depend heavily on the yard’s ability to keep the coronavirus at bay. The shipyard suffered early on, when as much as a quarter of the production workforce stayed home due to being vulnerable to the virus, having to take care of children who were out of school, feeling ill, or otherwise being unable to come to work in person during the pandemic. The four public shipyards, which conduct maintenance on the Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines, were already working hard to get out of a backlog of work that has plagued the Navy throughout much of the past decade and risked falling farther behind instead if the workforce could not come in to do the manual labor of repairing and modernizing nuclear-powered ships.
Since then, the Navy activated a Surge Maintenance, or SurgeMain, effort to bring about 1,600 reservists to the public shipyards to contribute to the workload.
“NNSY is welcoming approximately 140 reserve sailors this month to eventually culminate in more than 480 reservists supporting work on a variety of NNSY projects through September 2021,” reads the Navy news release on Truman’s maintenance period.
Capt. Michael MacLellan, SurgeMain’s national director, said in the news release that the 486 planned sailors that will support NNSY have the knowledge and skills to start contributing to the Truman availability right away.
“Our sailors are electricians, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, plumbers, hydraulic technicians, mechanics, machinists, carpenters, welders and more,” he said. “Many of our people have prior experience at the shipyard where they’re being sent, right down to the specific shop where they will be working alongside the shipyard’s organic civilian workforce.”