Nimitz-Class Navy Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis Is Getting a Massive Upgrade

Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis

Nimitz-Class Navy Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis Is Getting a Massive Upgrade

The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), a Nimitz-class supercarrier of the U.S. Navy, recently exited drydock, marking a key phase in its extensive Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) at HII-Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

Summary: The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), a Nimitz-class supercarrier of the U.S. Navy, recently exited drydock, marking a key phase in its extensive Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) at HII-Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. This overhaul includes significant upgrades to both internal systems and external structures, such as the propulsion plant, aircraft launch and recovery equipment, and living spaces. With more than 65% of the RCOH completed, the Stennis is on track to rejoin the fleet in October 2026 as one of the most technologically advanced carriers, poised to serve the second half of its expected 50-year lifespan.

USS John C. Stennis Embarks on Next Phase After Exiting Drydoc

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class supercarrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) undocked from drydock earlier this week, completing a significant milestone during its multi-year Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) at HII-Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) in Newport News, Virginia. NNS flooded the dry dock with 100 million gallons of water to float and move the carrier to an outfitting berth at the shipyard, where the remainder of the RCOH work and testing will be completed.

CVN-74 has already received "significant upgrades" during the RCOH dry dock phase, which is part of an "extensive overhaul process, both inside and outside the ship," according to HII.

"Witnessing Stennis leave the dry dock and return to the water is a testament to the hard work of our shipbuilders, the crew and our government partners," said Rob Check, NNS vice president of in-service aircraft carrier programs. "We remain laser focused on the work ahead during this RCOH period and look forward to preparing this mighty aircraft carrier for the next half of its operational life."

USS John C. Stennis is now the seventh Nimitz-class aircraft to undergo its RCOH, which is the mid-life refueling overhaul and maintenance availability that produces a recapitalized carrier capable of supporting current and future U.S. Navy requirements. Once the RCOH is complete, the supercarrier will be equipped to operate in the fleet for the second half of her 50-year expected service life.

USS John C. Stennis Aircraft Carrier: Lots of Work to be Done

The RCOH truly is a "complex overhaul" as NNS shipbuilders replaced thousands of valves, pumps and piping components, while on the outside, they performed major structural updates to the island, mast and antenna tower. Upgrades have been made to all aircraft launch and recovery equipment; while the carrier's hull, including sea chests and freeboard, has been painted. The team restored the propeller shafts and installed refurbished propellers and rudders.

During the next phase of RCOH, NNS shipbuilders will complete the overhaul and installation of the ship's major components and test its electronics, combat and propulsion systems. The focus will also be on improving the ship's living areas, including crew living spaces, galleys and mess decks.

"RCOH construction enhances nearly every space and system on the carrier, beyond the most critical requirement to defuel and refuel the ship’s two nuclear reactors and to repair and upgrade the propulsion plant," explained Capt. Mark Johnson, manager of the Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers In-Service Aircraft Carrier Program Office.

"We work on every part of the ship, from the hull, screws, and rudders to more than 600 tanks; thousands of valves, pumps, and piping components; electrical cables and ventilation; as well as combat and aviation support systems. It's demanding, complex work that challenges every member of the planning team, shipyard crews, and ship's force," added Johnson.

In many ways, the RCOH could be compared to home renovation, and the crew is no doubt as excited as some homeowners to see the work completed.

"Our focus remains steadfast to get our ship back into the fight and to foster the professional and personal development of our sailors," said Capt. J. Patrick Thompson III, the ship's commanding officer. "We look forward to continue working with our industry partners to complete remaining production and test work and redeliver Stennis back to the fleet."

This Old Nimitz-Class Carrier – A Costly Endeavor

USS John C. Stennis was commissioned in December 1995, and entered RCOH in May 2021, under a $3 billion contract with NNS. The overhaul is reported to be more than 65% complete and tracking for redelivery of the supercarrier to the U.S. Navy in October 2026.

USS John C. Stennis Aircraft Carrier

In 2024, HII also secured a $913m contract to initiate the RCOH of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), the next Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to receive advanced capabilities and to extend its service life.

Aircraft carriers enter refueling complex overhauls at the mid-point of their 50-plus-year lifespan, incorporating upgrades to propulsion equipment, infrastructure, and electronic systems, reported. The warships shouldn't be described as good as new, but rather better than they were when they first entered service.

"When John C. Stennis redelivers, she'll be the most technologically advanced Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Navy," said Rear Adm. Casey J. Moton, commander of the Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers.  "She'll bring to the Fleet the highest level of capability across all mission sets."

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