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The Navy’s Last Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier Is Ready for War

USS George H.W. Bush
170808-N-FP878-008 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 8, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) maneuvers between the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), left, and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), right, for a photo exercise during exercise Saxon Warrior 2017, Aug. 8. Saxon Warrior is a United States and United Kingdom co-hosted carrier strike group exercise that demonstrates allied interoperability and capability to respond to crises and deter potential threats. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold /Released)

After a lengthy repair and refurbishment that took 1.3 million work hours and 30 months, the United States Navy’s unique USS George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier is ready to head out to sea.

The list of repairs and refurbishments the aircraft carrier underwent is extensive. In addition, to complete propeller and propeller shaft overhauls and refurbishing the ship’s rudder, crews upgraded the ship’s combat systems and electronics, crew quarters, and airplane launch catapults.

Getting the USS George H. W. Bush ship-shape was no easy task. “At the beginning of this challenging availability I shared with the project team this would be a marathon event due to the large work package and the length of time it would take to return George H.W. Bush to the Fleet,” Navy Project Superintendent Jeff Burchett explained in the Navy’s statement on the refit.

“At that time, we had no idea what we would face with the COVID 19 pandemic and the additional challenges it brought to the team to overcome such a major obstacle on top of the planned work,” Burchett said. “The team stepped up and worked through it.”

Nimitz-class

The USS George H. W. Bush is the last and, therefore, newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier built for the United States Navy. Originally laid down in 2003, the aircraft carrier entered service in 2009. The first Nimitz-class, the USS Nimitz, entered service in 1975.

Although the ten Nimitz aircraft carriers are similar—the Navy considers all to be a single class—there are some variations between the ten hulls. The USS George W. H. Bush, in particular, differs, in some ways significantly, from the previous nine Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

The Navy designed the USS George W. H. Bush as a transition ship from the older Nimitz-class to the new Gerald R. Ford-class that will eventually replace the Nimitz-class ships on a one-to-one basis.

In particular, the USS George W. H. Bush has a bulbous bow design that increases the ship’s top speed and aids in forward buoyancy. The aircraft carrier’s four propellers are also unique to the Nimitz-class fleet, redesigned to reduce erosion and wear to the propeller and drive components. The aircraft carrier also sports an underwater hull coating.

Postscript

And while the refit is now complete, the ship is not yet cleared to reenter active U.S. Navy service. Instead, the aircraft carrier must complete new sea trials to validate the ship’s repairs and complete other certifications before its next pre-deployment training cycle. In about a decade, the USS George W. H. Bush will have to refuel its dual nuclear reactors — and after then, can sail for another twenty to twenty-five years.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Slack

    August 30, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    Carriers like the USS George H W Bush are quite dubious for today’s operation and would be near completely useless for wartime use in a few decades’ time.

    Instead of building dedicated carriers, forward looking navies should build Very Large multi-purposes destroyers that combine a (carrier’s) full-length flight deck with (a modern destroyer’s) state of the art defensive and offensive weaponry to avoid or at least reduce the risk of getting mangled by just a single hypersonic missile or warhead.

  2. Brian Foley

    August 31, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    Great, a little late is better than a lot late. Take note of the author mentioning that the Bush’s was laid down in 2003 and delivered to the Fleet in 2009…yeah, nice. The USS Ford was laid down in 2009 and commissioned in 2017 and still isn’t with the Fleet…yeah, not nice.
    Well, here’s to the USS Bush….Fair winds and calm seas.

  3. WALTER A ADAMS

    August 31, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    American carriers scare the hell out of me.
    Someday, one of these monsters is going to be sunk.
    It’s as certain as the turning of the Earth.
    Too may shooters, too many people willing to do whatever it takes to sink one.
    5,000 men gone in a flash.
    5,000 MEN.
    GONE.
    Got to be a better way.

  4. G L L

    August 31, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Mr.Larson, You may be in error. The USS Ford is the first of the Ford class, not the last of the Nimitz class. You had it right one time in the body of your article, but not in the Heading, nor in other references in the article body.

  5. Brad

    August 31, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    It’s much more difficult than you might think to sink one of these supercarriers. And the amount of massed combat power they can bring is unmatched by any other platform. Then consider the tactical dilemma presented for the ememy who must devote monumental resources to countering these floating airbases, capable of disappearing like a ghost in the vast ocean expanses. The obituary for these carriers being written by some is vastly premature in my opinion. Innovation in weapons, technology, and most importantly the composition of airwings will keep these ships relevant for decades to come. Is 11 the right number? Maybe not, nor must the carriers be mutually exclusive with modern concepts of distributed operations.

  6. Denise M. Wright

    August 31, 2021 at 8:22 pm

    Ready for war with what? To see which sailor can espouse the most “woke” road apples!

  7. John Igoe

    August 31, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    Please don’t precede a ship’s name with “The”. Ship’s names are propeJr nouns and don’t need “the” preceding it. For example “USS Gerald R.Ford is starting sea trials.” Is correct. It is correct to write “The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford will begin sea trials shortly.”

  8. Slack

    September 17, 2021 at 1:12 am

    The carrier is (nearly or almost) sailing past its bedtime.

    The best replacement in my opinion is the type 076 helicopter destroyer which is still not yet built but already ‘in the works.’

    The concept of the 076 is pretty good, but it still lacks heavy caliber gatling cannons, VLS silos and possibly a rail gun.

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