THE PENTAGON – The mid-life repair and refueling of carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73) will extend into 2023 and last well over five and half years, according to Navy budget documents.
The service now estimates the refueling and refurbishment will finish in March of 2023, almost 19 months later than the expected August 2021 initial delivery, the service said in its recently released Fiscal Year 2023 budget material.
As recently as March, Naval Sea Systems Command estimated the ship would deliver in December, according to a NAVSEA statement reported by Defense News.
The extension is part of an additional $62 million in funds the Navy is requesting in the FY 2023 budget and an additional $45 million in the unfunded request to complete the extended maintenance period, reads the budget submission.
“[The] increase in Basic Construction for CVN 73 from the FY 2022 budget request are to finance Shipbuilder cost increase due to time related services, emergent and supplemental growth, and schedule delays,” reads the entry in the shipbuilding account of the FY 2023 budget. A message for additional detail on the delay was acknowledged by NAVSEA but not immediately returned.
Military.com first reported the carrier was expected to delivery in 2023, citing GW commanding officer Capt. Brent Gaut address to the crew last week.
The formerly Japan-based carrier began the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) in earnest in 2017 at Newport News Shipbuilding, Va. The first half of the RCOH, which will prepare the carrier to operate for another 25 years, was completed by 2020. But workforce issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and unexpected work that cropped up on the carrier caused delays.
The Japan-based carrier has an annual maintenance period in Yokosuka, while U.S. carriers see a major nine-month or more overhaul every three to four years .
“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,” Chris Miner, the vice president of In-Service Aircraft Carrier Programs, told USNI News at the start of the RCOH in 2017.
“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.”
HII spokesman Danny Hernandez told USNI News on Monday that “Newport News is laser focused on delivering [a] fully recapitalized carrier to the fleet as early as possible.”
News of the extension comes as some of the more than 400 sailors living on the carrier have been given the option of moving off she ship following a string of suicides by members of the crew.
Three GW sailors died by suicide in one week in April, according to the Office of the Medial Examiner of Virginia. Since 2019, seven GW sailors have died by suicide, according to the Navy. There was also an additional death of a GW sailor in the last 12 months that a military medical examiner has ruled undetermined, while civilian officials have determined is a suicide.
Long maintenance availabilities are difficult periods for crew members who live in tight quarters in what amounts to an industrial area.
In 2019, three sailors assigned to USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) committed suicide while the ship was in a 30-month maintenance period at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Va.