Tugboats assist USS Carl Vinson down the James River as it moves from dry dock to a nearby pier at Northrop Grumman
Newport News shipyard in May 2007. The aircraft carrier is undergoing a scheduled refueling complex overhaul that will
replenish its nuclear fuel and upgrade its services and infrastructure to prepare it for another 23 years of service.
Hughes, who worked on Carl Vinson when it was
being built and was director of aircraft carrier engineering for the first two RCOHs, said, “We leverage a
lot of the technology that’s being designed for and
installed on new-construction ships.”
The island superstructure of Carl Vinson has been
modified to a configuration similar to that of George H. W.
Bush, he said, “which gives advantages with respect to
aircraft launch and recovery and primary flight-control
[systems] as well as the layout of combat systems.”
One of the major improvements to the ship is an
alteration of its electrical power distribution system to
increase capacity and accommodate new systems,
especially the thousands of computers on a ship that
was built before the personal computer age.
“The overall generation capacity on the ship was
fine,” Hughes said, “but getting it distributed to all the
places on the ship is something that we’ve increased,
so that gives the ship an increased service-life margin
for even more growth after they leave here.”
Carl Vinson will push through the water with four
new 21-foot-diameter Rolls-Royce propellers, the first
to be installed during an RCOH and the same design
installed on the George H.W. Bush.
After acceptance sea trials, Carl Vinson will go
through a shakedown cruise to thoroughly test and certify its systems, including the navigation system, the
flight deck and the precision-approach landing system.
Also to be conducted will be combined combat systems
ship qualification trials, “a series of at-sea exercises and
tests to verify that the shipboard [combat] systems had
been installed correctly and can be operated and maintained safely and effectively,” Carter said.
The carrier then will return for the post-shakedown
availability and restricted availability periods to allow
for adjustments or repairs of systems and more equipment upgrade installations. Upon completion, the ship
will be ready for working up for fleet service and a
change of homeport to San Diego.
Despite the Navy’s plans to reduce the size of crews
on its future ships, the RCOH will not result in any
substantial reduction in the crew of the Carl Vinson,
which is nominally manned by about 3,300 Sailors.
During the overhaul, the crew size dropped to about
2,500 at one point, Carter said. Because of low demand
for their skills during an overhaul, many specialists in
operations and intelligence were diverted to other
units, where they were more needed. The crew also
supported the Navy’s need for individual augmentees,
deploying an average of more than 40 Sailors worldwide in any given month during the overhaul.
“The biggest challenge for the Sailors of Carl Vinson
during RCOH is to remember that this warship exists to
do the nation’s bidding, and not to be in the overhaul