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Early Retirement for a Nimitz Carrier?

by John Reed on October 7, 2011

This is interesting. The Navy is thinking about retiring the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS George Washington sometime in the next decade — roughly 25-years early, Defense News is reporting.

The move, designed to save money, would make the GW, commissioned in 1992 and originally slated to serve for 50-years, the very first Nimitz class carrier to be decommissioned.

According to Defense News’ Chris Cavas, the ship wouldn’t receive the mid-life refueling of her nuclear reactors that’s scheduled for 2016. She’d then serve until her current supply of nuclear fuel runs out — which is expected to happen sometime between 2016 and 2021.

Navy officials are also apparently considering disbanding one of the sea service’s 10 carrier air wings to coincide with the retirement of the GW — both moves would cut thousands of personnel positions and save equal sums of cash.

The Navy would need Congress’ permission to retire the GW early, since this would reduce the Navy’s big deck carrier force to 10 ships and U.S. law mandates an 11-carrier Navy. The currently has ten Nimitz class carriers along with the 50-year old USS Enterprise. The Enterprise will be replaced by the brand new USS Gerald R. Ford in 2015.

While the Navy isn’t confirming this, Chris Cavas is incredibly well sourced and knows the service and its ships better than just about anyone I know. It’s more than safe to assume this is under active consideration at the Pentagon as officials there try to shave $464 billion from DoD budgets over the next decade.

The other thing that’s safe to assume is that the Navy will get plenty of pushback both internally and externally on this idea. Nobody needs to be told that carriers are the backbone of the Navy and one of the keys to U.S.’ military dominance. Reducing the carrier fleet by just one ship will undoubtedly alarm some people given the fact that China is fielding its first, albeit refurbished carrier, and reportedly set to commission two brand new carriers in the coming years.

Remember this fact that Cavas points out:

Congress raised its collective ire only a few years ago when the service asked for permission to temporarily drop to a 10-ship fleet during the time when the Enterprise is decommissioned in 2013 and the Ford is commissioned in 2016. But when the request was resubmitted in an off-election year, virtually no objections were raised.

One veteran observer opined that the Navy could cancel or defer the refueling overhaul, but leave a specific request to decommission the ship until after the election.

Click here for the story.

 

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