Coming Back to Life
Shipyard, crew ready Carl Vinson for second quarter-century of service
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Forging a New Standard
When the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson returns
to sea in March, following a 40-month refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH), its skipper, Capt. Ted Carter, will have only a few months at the
helm before he moves on to his next assignment. His
relief will have the privilege of taking the renovated ship
to its homeport and on to its next deployment.
However, Carter is no less appreciative of his role in
taking Carl Vinson through one of the most complex
tasks asked of a commanding officer.
“I came here about one year into the complex overhaul
and my task has really been to manage the crew through
the overhaul and the transition,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, until my absolute last day onboard Carl
Vinson, my focus is on the crew, bringing this ship back to
life and making it a successful combat-ready ship.”
Carter, an F- 4 and F- 14 flight officer and former
executive officer of the carrier USS Harry S. Truman,
understands the once-in-a-quarter-century impact he
and his crew will have on the ship — and the Navy at
large — and of the importance of getting it right.
“You only get to build out the crew of an aircraft carrier twice in a 50-year [ship] lifespan; [once] when the
ship is built new and [once] when the ship goes
through a complex overhaul,” he said. “The personality that the crew has as we come out of this overhaul
will pretty much be going into
motion for the next 25 years.”
Carl Vinson, the third ship of the
Nimitz class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, is going through the
final months of its RCOH, which
includes a refueling of the nuclear
reactors that will power the ship for
the last 23 years of its planned service life, a thorough renovation and
the installation of many upgrades.
The RCOH is being conducted by
Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding’s
shipyard at Newport News, Va.,
where Carl Vinson was launched 28 years ago.
The RCOHs for USS Nimitz and USS Dwight D.
Eisenhower cost $3.15 billion and $3.18 billion, respectively, in fiscal 2006 dollars, according to Alan
Baribeau, a spokesman for the Navy’s program executive officer for carriers. Carl Vinson’s RCOH is expected to top out at $3.12 billion.
Carl Vinson will be followed in RCOH in September
by the next youngest Nimitz hull, USS Theodore
Roosevelt. Northrop Grumman is executing a $558 million contract for advance planning and materials procurement for the Theodore Roosevelt RCOH, which is to
be funded in the 2009 budget.
Carter said the Carl Vinson RCOH is on budget. When
the ship emerges for sea trials in March, it will be “as
modern [an] aircraft carrier as there is in the Navy fleet.”
In addition to upgrades to its radar and navigation systems, the carrier is receiving the Rolling Airframe Missile
system and the Cooperative Engagement Capability, a
system of networks that enhance ship and strike group
defense by integrating sensors and fire-control systems.
The ship’s combat systems “should be very similar to
[those on] the George H. W. Bush,” said Jim Hughes, vice
president for carrier overhauls for Northrop Grumman,
which is delivering the 10th and last Nimitz-class carrier to the Navy in January.
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson approaches March sea trials in
the final stages of a half-life refueling and comprehensive overhaul.
■ Crew and shipyard teamwork is essential to the success of an
■ Building a crew of mariners and warfighters is a challenge during overhaul.