The tenth and final ship of the Nimitz-class of United States Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) is named for the forty-first president of the United States. Delivered to the Navy in May 2009, while she cost taxpayers $6.2 billion she is now one of the most powerful warships in the world and will remain in service until the late 2050s.
As with the sister carriers of her class, George H.W. Bush measures 1,092 feet (333 m) and displaces over 100,000 tons, making her one of the world’s largest warships. However, there are also several notable differences from the previous Nimitz-class carriers. CVN-77, nicknamed Avenger, features a bulbous bow design, which reportedly provides more buoyancy to the forward end of the ship and improves hull efficiency. Additionally, the flight deck has curved edges that are meant to reduce the radar signature.
She is also the second carrier after USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) to feature a modernized island with a new radar tower. It is smaller and has been repositioned much further aft, which is meant to improve flight deck access while reducing signature and electronic self-interference.
One of the most infamous new features to the George HW Bush is its toilet and sewage system, which are similar to what is used on commercial aircraft. However, the systems were in the media last year not due to any improved efficiency but rather the fact that they were prone to unexpected and frequent clogging/
USS George HW Bush: A Floating Airport
As with other Nimitz-class carriers, USS George HW Bush is a floating airport – home to a crew of more than 6,000 sailors and marines including 3,200 crew with 160 officers and 2,500 making up the aircrew. Additionally, the warship accommodates the carrier battle group’s flag officer and about seventy additional crewmembers.
She can carry typically up to fifty-six fixed-wing aircraft including the F/A-18A/C and F/A-18E/F, Grumman EA-6B Prowler and the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, as well as up to fifteen rotary aircraft including the Sikorsky SH-60F, HH-60H Seahawk and SH-60B Seahawks. With four C13-2 steam catapults and three mk7 mod 3-type arrester wires the carrier can launch and recover aircraft rapidly and simultaneously. The carrier can launch aircraft at a rate of one every 20 seconds.
In 2012, George HW Bush was assigned to Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG-2) during her first deployment under the command of Rear Admiral Nora Tyson. The carrier tested unmanned drones in 2013, and the landing of the X-47B marked the first time any unmanned aircraft had completed an arrested landing on board a carrier while it was operating at sea.
In August 2014, while she was deployed to protect U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf, a pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets launched from the carrier to drop 500-pound laser-guided bombs on ISIS forces near the Kurdish capital city of Erbil. A month later, F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets took part in additional sorties to strike targets at ISIS targets in Syria.
In 2019, the ship arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a planned 28-month docking planned incremental availability (DPIA). George HW Bush is still undergoing maintenance as of April 2021, and is still not ready for her next deployment.
The delay in returning CVN-76 is due to a shortage of maintenance capacity at the Navy’s shipyards, where most of the work on nuclear-powered ships and submarines takes place.
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.