The sixth Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the fourth United States Navy vessel to be named for commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States, USS George Washington (CVN-73) is currently undergoing her four-year Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH). The warship is on track to have the work completed by September of this year, and will soon be ready to operate for another twenty-five years.
In addition to the refueling of the nuclear reactors, the ship's combat systems and other warfighting capabilities are being upgraded – so that George Washington will leave the shipyard as one of the world's most technologically advanced capital warships in the world.
USS George Washington, a History
Laid down in August 1986, the carrier was launched in July 1990 and two years later on July 4, 1992, was commissioned. Commonly known by the nickname "GW," the supercarrier can carry upwards of ninety fix-wing and rotary aircraft.
President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton led an entourage of the nation's leaders on board the carrier on June 5, 1994, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. Later that warship was dispatched to the Persian Gulf, where she took part in Operation Vigilant Warrior to protect Kuwait from a second invasion by Iraq. Joined by the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LPH-10), along with 2,000 Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the arrival of the carrier convinced Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to withdraw his Republican Guard Forces. In November of 1994 Iraq officially recognized an independent Kuwait.
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, USS George Washington, along with the carriers USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), was deployed to protect the United States from potential attacks. During the subsequent sixth deployment, CVN-73 traveled to the Gulf of Aden and conducted operations in the Persian Gulf.
In December 2005, it was announced by the United States Navy that USS George Washington would replace USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) as the forward-deployed carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. CVN-73 became the first nuclear-powered surface warship permanently stationed outside the continental United States.
A fire broke out in the vicinity of the carrier's aft air conditioning and refrigeration space and auxiliary boiler room in May 2008, and spread to several spaces via a cableway and caused extreme heat in some of the ship spaces. While it was contained and extinguished by the crew without any serious injuries to personnel, it took several hours to completely contain and extinguish the fire. The ship's crew was at general quarters for approximately 12 hours.
George Washington was one of several U.S. Navy vessels that also participated in disaster relief after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The carrier departed Japan in 2015 following a ten-day turn over period with the newer USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). Prior to beginning her mid-life RCOH, GW also provided support to Haiti following October 2016's Hurricane Matthew.
Once she returns to service, USS George Washington will also likely operate the carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, making the Nimitz-class carrier an even more formidable warship in the U.S. Navy's fleet.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.