U.S.S. George Washington (CVN-73)
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Career (United States)
Name: U.S.S. George Washington
Namesake: U.S President George Washington
Ordered: 27 December 1982
Builder: Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Newport News
Laid down: 25 August 1986
Sponsored by: Barbara Bush
Christened: 21 July 1990
Commissioned: 4 July 1992
Homeport: Yokosuka Naval Base, Yokosuka, Japan
Motto: ''Spirit of Freedom''
Nickname: GW, G-Dub, ''Cell Block 73''
Status: In active service, as of 2014
Class & type: Nimitz class aircraft carrier, Theodore Roosevelt subclass
Displacement: 104,200 long tons (116,700 short tons)
Length: Overall: 1,092 feet (332.8 m)
Waterline: 1,040 feet (317.0 m)
Beam: Overall: 252 feet (76.8 m)
Waterline: 134 feet (40.8 m)
Draft: Maximum navigational: 37 feet (11.3 m)
Limit: 41 feet (12.5 m)
Propulsion: 2 Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors, 4 steam turbines, 4 shafts, 260,000 shp (194 MW)
Speed: 30+ knots (56+ km/h; 35+ mph)
Range: Unlimited distance; 20 - 25 years
Complement: Ship's company: 3,200, Air wing: 2,480
Sensors and processing systems: AN/SPS-48E 3-D air search radar, AN/SPS-49(V)5 2-D air search radar, AN/SPQ-9B target acquisition radar, AN/SPN-46 air traffic control radars, AN/SPN-43C air traffic control radar, AN/SPN-41 landing aid radars, 4 Mk 91 NSSM guidance systems, 4 Mk 95 radars
Electronic warfare and decoys: SLQ-32A(V)4 Countermeasures suite, SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasures
Armament: 2 Mk 57 Mod3 Sea Sparrow, 2 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, 3 Phalanx CIWS
Aircraft carried: 90 fixed wing and helicopters
The U.S.S. George Washington (CVN-73) is a United States Navy nuclear powered aircraft carrier ''supercarrier'', the sixth carrier in the Nimitz class and the fourth U.S. Navy ship named after George Washington, the first president of the United States. She was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and was commissioned on 4 July 1992.
The George Washington (commonly known as GW) is 1,092 feet (333 m) long, 257 feet (78 m) wide and 244 feet (74 m) high. The super carrier can accommodate approximately 80 aircraft and has a flight deck 4.5 acres (18,000 m) in size, using four elevators that are 3,880 feet (360 m) each to move planes between the flight deck and the hangar bay. With a combat load, GW displaces almost 97,000 long tons (99,000 t) and can accommodate 6,250 crewmembers. Her four distilling units can make 400,000 U.S. gallons (1,500,000 L) of potable water a day; the food service divisions serve 18,000 meals per day. There are over 2,500 compartments on board requiring 2,520 refrigeration tons (8.6 MW) of air conditioning capacity (enough to cool over 2,000 homes). The warship uses two Mark II stockless anchors that weigh 30 tons each, with each link of the anchor chain weighing 360 pounds (160 kg). It is currently equipped with two 20 mm Phalanx CIWS mounts and two Sea Sparrow SAM launchers. One CIWS and one Sea Sparrow mount were removed to make way for two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, installed during the 2005 Drydocking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA).
Traditionally, U.S. Navy aircraft carrier hangar bays were painted Navy Gray; George Washington was commissioned with the hangar bay bulkheads and overhead painted white, to make the hangar bay appear larger and brighter. Since then, all U.S. carriers have followed suit. All U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have their hull number painted on both sides of their island structure for identification.
General Washington had long been a proponent of a strong Navy. On 15 November 1781 he wrote, Without a decisive Naval force, we can do nothing decisive. And with it, everything honourable and decisive. These words are engraved on a plaque on the ship's quarterdeck.
The ship is propelled at speeds of over 30 knots (56 km/h) by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors that turn 4 five bladed screws of 66,220 pounds (30,040 kg) each. She can travel more than three million nautical miles before needing refueling.
The contract for George Washington was awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding on 27 December 1982. The keel was laid on 25 August 1986. The ship was christened on 21 July 1990 by First Lady Barbara Bush, and was commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk on 4 July 1992.
Sixth deployment, 2004
On 20 February she entered the Gulf of Aden, and a week later was conducting operations in the Persian Gulf.
On 28 January 2005 the ship entered shipyard for Drydocking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA). Many ship's systems were upgraded and maintenance was done to the hull. The ship's four jet blast deflectors were removed and upgraded to handle the increased heat generated by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. One defensive Phalanx CIWS mount and one Sea Sparrow launcher were replaced by two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers. During the 11 months the ship was drydocked, the crew contributed 20,000 hours of volunteer community service to the city of Newport News, Virginia. The work was completed on schedule, and George Washington returned to her Norfolk home port on 17 December 2005.
On 1 December 2005, the United States Navy announced that the George Washington would replace U.S.S. Kitty Hawk (CV-63) as the forward deployed carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, becoming the first nuclear powered surface warship permanently stationed outside the continental United States. In an attempt to explain the carrier's mission to the Japanese public, the U.S. Navy printed a manga about life aboard GW, titled ''CVN-73''.
TheGW and CVW-17 left Norfolk on 4 April for a scheduled two month deployment to operate as part of SOUTHCOM's ''Partnership of the Americas''. This deployment included counter drug operations in the Caribbean Sea, crew exchanges and exercises with Latin American and South American navies, and port visits for the carrier and strike group, which consisted of the U.S.S. Monterey (CG-61), U.S.S. Stout (DDG-55), and U.S.S. Underwood (FFG-36). The first of these port visits took place from 14 - 17 April in St. Maarten, and Antigua from 15 - 18 May. GW returned to Norfolk on 24 May.
On 7 April 2008 George Washington, with CVW-17 and Carrier Strike Group 8 embarked, departed Norfolk en route to Yokosuka, Japan to replace the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, taking a route around South America as she is too large for the Panama Canal; she took part there in the Gringo-Gaucho maneuvers with Argentine Naval Aviation. After the planned turnover with Kitty Hawk at NS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, CVW-17 and Carrier Strike Group Eight were to return to their home ports in the U.S. to be replaced by Carrier Air Wing 5, based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, and Carrier Strike Group Five based at Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan.
Transit and fire
During the South American transit, the Washington Battle Group participated in U.S. Southern Command exercises Partnership of the Americas and Unitas, a joint military exercise between the United States, Brazilian and Argentine navies. On 22 April 2008, George Washington arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for her first port visit to that country. The ship traversed the Strait of Magellan on 9–10 May.
Firefighting in Hangar Bay 3
On 22 May 2008, while the ship was off the Pacific Coast of South America, a fire broke out and injured 37 sailors, with no fatalities, in an incident described by the Navy as ''serious''. According to a statement from Naval Air Forces' public affairs office, the fire broke out in the ship's air-conditioning and refrigeration space and an auxiliary boiler room. The fire spread via a cableway and ventilation ducting and caused extreme temperatures in some parts of the ship. It took over twelve hours for the crew to contain and extinguish the fire, one of the largest non-combat fires aboard a U.S. Naval vessel since the devastating fire on board the U.S.S. Forrestal in 1967.
On 27 May George Washington stopped at NAS North Island in San Diego, California for repairs. On 20 June the Navy announced that the damage from the fire was more serious than previously thought, and that repairs would take at least until August and would cost $70 million. As a consequence, Kitty Hawk was retained in Hawaii during June and July to replace Washington in the RIMPAC 2008 exercises, with the planned turnover to take place in San Diego instead of Hawaii. A Navy investigation found that the ''entirely preventable'' fire had been caused by unauthorized smoking in a room where 115 gallons (440 L) of flammable refrigerant compressor oil was improperly stored. The room was near the aft auxiliary boiler. The ship's damage control team took nearly eight hours to discover the source of the smoke and flames. By that time, the fire had spread to eight decks and 80 compartments, and destroyed miles of electrical and fiber optic cables. The damage control department had been found deficient in three inspections between June 2007 and April 2008. Although the carrier's commanding officer started a program to remedy the team's training and performance in the month before the fire, the report found those efforts to have been insufficient. Admiral Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, noted in his investigation, ''It is apparent from this extensive study that there were numerous processes and procedures related to fire prevention and readiness and training that were not properly functioning. The extent of damage could have been reduced had numerous longstanding firefighting and firefighting management deficiencies been corrected.'' Willard added that ''Many crew members ... displayed courage and resolve in fighting the fires.''
On 30 July 2008 Willard announced that Captain David C. Dykhoff had been relieved of his duties as Commanding Officer citing ''a loss of confidence in his ability to command and his failure to meet mission requirements and readiness standards.'' Executive Officer Captain David M. Dober was also relieved for ''substandard performance''. Six other sailors were disciplined with non-judicial punishment. Four sailors were found guilty of violating a lawful order and hiding hazardous materials in direct violation of safety regulations. The Navy's Pacific Fleet refused to name the enlisted sailors disciplined. Two non-commissioned officers were found guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty for not properly supervising the workspace. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal was awarded to Senior Chief Petty Officer Keith Hendrickson for leading a team that rescued four shipmates trapped by the fire deep in the interior of the ship.
On 21 August, under new skipper Captain J.R. Haley and executive officer Captain Karl O. Thomas, George Washington departed NAS North Island for Japan, with Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW 5) embarked. The carrier arrived at Yokosuka, Japan on 25 September 2008, where she was met by several hundred local supporters and protesters.
On 2 July 2009 The George Washington, accompanied by U.S.S. Cowpens, anchored on the Gage Roads of Perth, capital of Western Australia. GW sailors visited Fremantle and Perth. Local brothels recruited extra staff to cope with the increase in business. Crew members volunteered to complete community projects including cleaning, maintenance, and painting at organizations including PMH, a Salvation Army rehabilitation center, Perth Zoo and Cohunu Koala Park. In mid-July the ship took part in Operation Talisman Sabre off the coast of Australia's Northern Territory.
From 2 to 6 August 2009 GW made a port call in Singapore where sailors were granted rest and recreation leave and participated in community relation projects such as painting and landscaping at a local community center, children's center, special education school and an association for the disabled. The ship made a 4 day goodwill visit to Manila Bay, Philippines, anchoring off historic Corregidor Island from 11 to 15 August 2009.
In August 2009 George Washington participated in the Indonesian Fleet Review, during Sail Bunaken 2009 event, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The parade of warships and tall ships from 40 nations included five from the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, including George Washington, Cowpens, Mustin, McCampbell, and Fitzgerald. Carrier Airwing Five, currently embarked on George Washington, also participated with a multi-aircraft fly by of the viewing station during the parade. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group returned to Japan 3 September for a maintenance upkeep period prior to her second fall patrol.
On 11 May 2010 George Washington completed maintenance and refit and departed Yokosuka for trials. On 21 July 2010 she arrived at Busan, South Korea for a port visit and then participated in exercise ''Invincible Spirit'' in the Sea of Japan with the U.S.A.F., Republic of Korea Air Force and Republic of Korea Navy from 25 to 28 July 2010. Invincible Spirit was staged to improve combined operations capability and as a show of deterrence following the ROKS Cheonan sinking. The exercise was conducted in the Sea of Japan to placate China's objections to military exercises being conducted in the Yellow Sea. Due in part to those objections a second exercise, in the Yellow Sea on the west coast of North Korea, was planned.
On 8 August 2010 George Washington stopped off the coast of Da Nang City in the South China Sea to celebrate the 15th anniversary of normalization of Vietnam - U.S. diplomatic relations, the first Vietnam visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War. In November 2010 the George Washington carrier group departed for planned exercises with the Republic of Korea Navy, partially in response to the shelling of Yeonpyeong and increased tension with North Korea.
The U.S.S. George Washington was one of several participating in disaster relief after the 2011 Thoku earthquake and tsunami. While docked for maintenance in Yokosuka she detected radiation from the Fukushima I nuclear accidents, and was ordered to leave port before schedule, with a smaller than normal crew, to avoid the radioactive plume. The smaller crew was unable to continue to provide aid. While at sea, the carrier made two visits to United States Fleet Activities Sasebo to exchange crew members and take on maintenance equipment. The ship returned to her berth at Yokosuka on 20 April 2011.
A 2011 proposal by Senator Tom Coburn called for the decommissioning of George Washington in 2016, before beginning her refueling and complex overhaul but after the carrier Gerald R. Ford enters service. After redeploying on another training cruise, a 25 September 2011 video from the carrier uploaded to YouTube became a viral hit. In the video, two flight deck crewmen are almost hit by a landing F/A-18, which is waved off shortly before landing on the deck where the crewmen are walking.
On 22 November 2011 the George Washington returned to Japan to conclude her 2011 patrol, with four port visits and two major exercises while cruising more than 50,000 nautical miles across the western Pacific Ocean.
During George Washington deployment, the aircraft carrier participated in joint training exercises with other service branches and regional partners, visited three Asia-Pacific nations (South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia) to practice interoperability, and conducted dual carrier operations with the U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN-74).
On 8 February 2013 the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the scheduled mid-life complex overhaul for the carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) would be postponed pending the resolution of the upcoming budget sequestration. The budget shortfall would affect Lincoln's refueling of her nuclear propulsion plant, the next scheduled mid-life complex overhaul involving the George Washington forward based in Yokosuka, Japan, and the de-fueling of the recently deactivated nuclear U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65). GW and her support vessels visited Brisbane, Australia in July. The ship moored 4 October 2013 in Busan, South Korea for a regularly scheduled liberty port visit. In November 2013 she moored in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. On 11 November 2013 the George Washington and her carrier strike group were deployed for a humanitarian mission in the Philippines, Operation Damayan, after destructive Typhoon Haiyan. The carrier group arrived on 14 November, delivered relief supplies, and deployed aircraft for search and rescue missions. On 6 December 2013, George Washington returned to her forward deployed port of Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.
In January 2014, it was announced that George Washington would be replaced by the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan at Yokosuka when the ship's Refuelling and Complex Overhaul is due. As part of the Navy's FY 2015 budget, Pentagon officials hinted at the possibility of taking George Washington out of service due to budget reductions. The ship is due for her mid-life refueling and overhaul in 2016, which will take three years and cost over $3 billion. The decision to replace the George Washington with the Ronald Reagan in her area of operations near Japan means decommissioning the ship would not affect American carrier presence in the region. The Congressional Budget Office has found that the elimination of the carrier and the air wing would save $7 billion from 2016 to 2021. They also found that the cost of decommissioning would be $2 billion, but spread out through 2021. After 2021, George Washington would return to service and remain operational until its planned out of service date in 2042. The Nimitz is the oldest ship in the class and would be expected to be decommissioned early instead of the George Washington. However, Nimitz has undergone a mid-life refuelling and is not due for decommission until the mid 2020s, whereas George Washington has yet to undergo this procedure, providing an opportunity to remove the ship from service before the planned expenditure.
In February 2014, under pressure from Congress, the Obama administration was reported to have decided to request additional funds from Congress for the refueling. However, if sequestration is not repealed by 2016, the Pentagon may not be able to find funding to keep the George Washington operating and it may have to be retired. In the draft of the Navy's unfunded priorities list for FY 2015, a $796 million line item was included for the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of the U.S.S. George Washington. Before it was approved by the Pentagon and sent to Congress, it was vetted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and signed by Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, after which the line item was removed. In a 31 March 2014 letter to Congress, Admiral Greenert said that the decision to remove the RCOH line item from the unfunded priorities list was made to align with budget decisions over the next several years. The list was for the FY 2015, so a decision to refuel or inactivate the carrier has to be made during FY 2016 budget planning with the fiscal outlook at that time and the possibility of sequestration funding levels. The removal of the line item removes funding for advanced procurement of materials for the overhaul; another line item had funding to remove the fuel from the ship, but not to overhaul or refuel it. By July 2014, the Navy had decided it would find the $7 billion in funds needed to keep the George Washington in service. This was followed by three congressional marks to fund the RCOH if the Navy wouldn't in the FY 2015 budget. As of July 2014, the Navy is still awaiting the fate of sequestration and the moving of funds to refueling the ship puts pressure on other programs.