This post has been updated to correct that Drydocking Planned Incremental Availabilities (DPIAs) are now notionally planned to last 16 months. They were formerly planned to go 10.5 months, but the Navy has changed its planning assumptions.
Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) is out of maintenance at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and will enter the basic pre-deployment training cycle, after a seven-month maintenance period extended to 10 months due to material challenges, USNI News understands.
Truman went into the repair yard in July 2020 following back-to-back deployments that included loitering off the coast of Virginia to remain COVID-free in the early days of the pandemic last year. The availability, despite the heavy operations Truman had seen between 2018 and 2020, was planned to be slimmed down. Instead of spending seven months in the yard for a full planned incremental availability, the ship would spend the same amount of time in the yard for a new type of repair called an extended carrier incremental availability, USNI News previously reported.
The availability was going to be smaller in scope than a full PIA, and the carrier was supposed to be out by early February. Part of the reason for the ECIA – less maintenance work, but over the same seven months as a full PIA – was due to the high volume of work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which included finishing up the final Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine refueling, conducting a Moored Training Ship conversion process and working on two aircraft carriers, Truman and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), which has been in the yard since February 2019 and is expected to finish maintenance this summer.
Truman ran three months long due to material challenges, a Naval Sea Systems Command spokesperson told USNI News.
“Although most of the production work in the CVN 75 availability was completed on schedule, the ship and shipyard team experienced a few material challenges late in the production window which resulted in additional growth work, repairs, and ultimately delayed the transition to the test program,” the spokesperson said.
“The timing of these specific material challenges (late in the availability) made it difficult to recover from the schedule impact.”
Additionally, “recent delays are primarily the result of slower than typical progress through the test program; however, the test program has progressed safely, which is the primary focal point for the Shipyard and Ship’s Force.”
The spokesperson added that, “although the CVN 75 availability started and completed during the pandemic, this project was not significantly impacted by reductions in work force availability due to COVID based on relative priority in the shipyard.”
The Navy has seen a mixed bag with maintenance at the public yards in recent years: the service has boasted that nine of 10 carriers had come out of maintenance on time prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the most recent two were delayed by just a matter of weeks due to COVID-related workforce challenges. Still, part of the reason for that success rate was that Bush was scheduled for a 28-month docking PIA (DPIA), whereas that type of availability would usually be planned for 16 months. USNI News reported that part of the lengthy schedule was due to a hefty amount of work needed on the ship, and part was due to lack of workforce capacity to work on the ship. Attack submarine maintenance has also consistently seen delays, with some SSNs not even being inducted into the yard because there’s no room and no workers available.
The NAVSEA spokesperson said the Navy intended to learn as much as possible from the Truman availability, as part of several ongoing efforts to create more efficient business practices within the various parts of the ship maintenance sector.
“Going forward, as part of the ‘Get Real, Get Better’ challenge that is a critical part of the Naval Sustainment Systems – Shipyard (NSS-SY) effort, [Norfolk Naval Shipyard] is applying lessons learned from the Truman availability to future projects. The NSS-SY program combines industry and government best practices throughout the Navy’s public shipyards. NSS-SY is pushing to provide the production workforce all the tools and resources needed to support nonstop execution of work, while simultaneously removing any barriers in availability execution.”
A Navy news release on the availability touted other wins associated with the maintenance effort, including proving that Norfolk Naval Shipyard can successfully dock and work on two carriers at once. Beginning in August, Truman and Bush shared a pier, in “the first time two Nimitz-Class aircraft carriers have been moored together at NNSY. NNSY managed maintenance for both carriers at once using a ‘split-plant’ work management concept,” reads the news release.
“The project team devised and implemented an innovative workforce execution strategy that provided the capacity to simultaneously support the maintenance and modernization needs of two aircraft carriers,” project superintendent Jim Brewer said in the news release.
“It also provided approximately 30 additional work days of production time for the Truman Project,” referring to the name the Navy gave the Truman ECIA.
In all, the Navy spent more than 300,000 man-days restoring 141 decks – or more than 28,000 square feet – and refurbishing all three wardrooms, the forward and aft mess decks, numerous offices and staterooms, and more than 230 watertight doors.
To help speed up the timeline, Truman started up its propulsion plant midway through the availability, the first time a Nimitz-class carrier has done so during a yard availability. The carrier also conducted no-load catapult testing on the flight deck to certify the catapults – in another first for the Navy during an availability – and began some basic-phase training events, according to the news release.
“The fact that we were practicing General Quarters twice a week and each training team was preparing for the beginning of Basic Phase allowed us to execute both Crew Certification Phase III and Command Assessment of Readiness and Training Part II events while still in the shipyard,” Lt. Cmdr. Chris McHenry, Truman’s training officer, said in the news release.
“The crew performed admirably, and Afloat Training Group assessors noted that Truman was well ahead of where most carriers are expected to be at this point in the training cycle.”
With Truman now out of maintenance, the Navy once again has a carrier on the East Coast preparing for a deployment. Currently, the sea service has two carriers tied up in mid-life refuelings – USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) just moved from Naval Station Norfolk to the Newport News Shipbuilding yard where the work takes place, and USS George Washington (CVN-73) is still wrapping up its own refueling overhaul. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) is deployed to the Middle East, Bush remains in maintenance, and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will soon be conducting full-ship shock trials before going into maintenance and then finally entering the basic phase of training for its first deployment next year, five years after commissioning into the fleet.
“As the flagship of the Harry S. Truman Strike Group, I am excited to have the USS Harry S. Truman flex her operating muscles and return to where she is meant to be—at sea,” Rear Adm. Ryan Scholl, commander of Carrier Strike Group 8, said in the news release.
“As she completes these sea trials, we will begin to incorporate the combat power of Carrier Air Wing 1, DESRON 28, and USS San Jacinto with our very powerful flagship.”