Overhaul Delays for USS George Washington, USS John C. Stennis Partially Due to Unknown Steam Turbine Damage

July 8, 2024 7:03 PM
USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) is moved to an outfitting berth at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2024. US Navy Photo

Extensive delays to the mid-life refueling and complex overhauls of two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers were due to damage to the steam turbines that power the ship, USNI News has learned.
According to Naval Sea Systems Command, “significant damage” to the generators aboard both USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) added unplanned work that was discovered after both carriers arrived at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding for maintenance.

Every mid-life refueling and overhaul, “work package has planned inspections and routine refurbishment of the eight [turbine generators]; however, inspections for both George Washington and John C. Stennis revealed one generator on each ship with significant damage that resulted in unplanned growth work, which contributed to schedule extensions on both ships,” reads the statement from NAVSEA.

The Nimitz-class carriers mid-life overhauls are scheduled for four years, but Washington took almost six years while Stennis is set to take five and a half, USNI News reported last month.

Based on Fiscal Year 2025 budget documents, the Navy estimated the work would take an extra 14 months to complete the mid-life overhaul on Stennis due to the additional work.

In a statement to USNI News, HII said “the change in redelivery schedule for [Stennis] is primarily a reflection of growth work discovered after the ship arrived to NNS and subsequent challenges within the supply base … We are applying lessons learned from both George Washington and John C. Stennis to what we are doing to prepare USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) for RCOH.”

Buried in the hull, the turbines are responsible for taking steam produced from the heat of the atomic reactors and converting it into both mechanical energies to drive the aircraft carrier and electricity for the ship’s systems. The turbines, originally installed on the ships more than 30 years ago, were designed to last the life of the carrier.

NAVSEA did not specify how much time the turbine issue would contribute to the Stennis overhaul, but USNI News understands the process could add up to a year to the work. HII would not elaborate beyond its statement to USNI News when asked about the timeline.

Growth in the length of time for the mid-life overhauls has resulted in delays not only to carrier availabilities, but also in mounting quality of life issues for sailors who live and work on the ship in the yard.

Sailors aboard George Washington endured some of the toughest living conditions of any members in the military, according to a 2023 Navy investigation following the deaths by suicide of several sailors assigned to the carrier.

Following the investigation, the Navy instituted new habitability standards and improvements, like planning for additional parking for sailors who have to commute to work on the ships under construction or repair at Newport News.

Stennis is now pierside at Newport News after leaving dry dock in April.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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