The United States Navy’s sixth Nimitz class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is the USS George Washington (CVN-73). Her origins begin with a shipbuilding contract awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding in late 1982. She was christened in July 1990 by First Lady Barbara Bush and commissioned just under a year later. At the start of the 21st century, the super carrier would be deployed in New York City following 9/11, and later in the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf in 2004. She would eventually replace the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) at the Yokosuka Naval Base in 2008. Once stationed, she became the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be forward-deployed at the base.
The ship’s hull number also gained some added significance with the release of the Navy-published manga “CVN-73”, which aimed to explain the carrier’s mission and daily life aboard the ship to the Japanese public. USS George Washington’s legacy includes many defense operations and deployments. Notable among her history are activities in SOUTHCOM’s “Partnership of the Americas” counter-drug operations, participation in Exercise Talisman Saber in the waters of Australia’s Northern Territory, as well as many goodwill, humanitarian, and relief missions.
As of 2017, USS George Washington has been undergoing a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) and is dry-docked in Virginia. Although the RCOH work was slated to end in August of 2021, delays due to unplanned work requirements and labor inefficiencies, many of which are reported to stem from the effects of COVID-19. Now, a completion date of May 2022 is expected.
What’s Aboard The George Washington Aircraft Carrier?
USS George Washington is what’s known as a super carrier in the Nimitz class. These are some of the largest warships ever built in the 20th-century, which were only recently outsized by the USS General R Ford ship class in 2017. USS George Washington’s 1092-foot length, 257-foot wide, and 244-foot height accommodates a flight deck that’s four-and-a-half acres in size.
Four elevators, measuring 3880-square feet, move aircraft to and from the ship’s hangar bay and flight deck. This includes the 90 fixed-wing planes and helicopters carrier by the vessel. All of this is anchored with two Mark II stockless anchors, each weighing 30 tons and led with 360 pounds of anchor chain. The ship can house up to 6,250 crew members and is able to distill 400,000 gallons of drinkable water and facilitate the preparation of 18,000 meals every day. Her refrigeration capabilities are enough to air-condition over 2000 homes.
A Phalanx CIWS close-in weapon system, two Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapon systems, and a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile infrared homing surface-to-air missile system have been included among the George Washington’s arsenal.
Two A4W nuclear reactors and four five-blade propellers enable the ship to reach speeds of 30 knots and travel distances of 3,000,000 nautical miles before refueling is necessary.
USS George Washington Fire And Repairs In 2008
A USS George Washington fire incident gained notoriety as one of the biggest non-combat fires aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. On the 22nd of May, 2008, a fire in the ship’s air-conditioning, refrigeration, and auxiliary boiler room compartments spread through parts of the ship’s ventilation system and cableway. The blaze took more than twelve hours to be contained and extinguished.
Though there were no fatalities, 37 sailors were injured and serious damage from smoke, flame, and extreme temperatures, which amounted to more than $70 million, had occurred. Repairs to eight decks, 80 compartments, miles of electrical and fiberoptic cables, and other equipment were required.
During a Navy investigation, the fire’s cause was uncovered as unauthorized smoking in a room with improperly stored refrigerant compressor oil. The extensive damage was also due to the many hours it took before the fire’s source was identified, preventing more effective firefighting efforts from being promptly deployed. In addition to the root cause of the fire, safety training and performance issues—which were cited in inspections prior to the incident—were found to be insufficiently addressed and contributed to the extent of the damage.
As a result of these and other procedural failures, USS George Washington’s Commanding Officer and Executive Officer Captain were relieved of their duties. Other sailors were also charged and disciplined for various safety regulations and supervisory negligence among other violations. Many crew members, however, were praised for their leadership and courage while rescuing shipmates and fighting the fires.