The US Navy is currently studying extending the service lives of the oldest Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
The US Navy is currently studying extending the service lives of the oldest Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, Jay Stefany, who is currently performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told reporters in a phone call on Apr. 20, 2022.
“I don’t know when that’s due to be reported out, but that is part of our [Program Objective Memorandum] 24 efforts that we’re working on now is how that would play out as far as potentially extending at least a couple of the first Nimitzs,” Stefany said of the study.
According to USNI News, while the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2023 30-year shipbuilding plan shows the service decommissioning USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in FY 2025 and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) in FY 2027 – which aligns with the carriers’ 50-year service lives – the Navy still has time to alter that plan if necessary.
Vice Adm. Scott Conn, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities (OPNAV N9), said during the same media call that “Nimitz was supposed to go into a late Fiscal Year ’23 [availability] where the extension could have been done. Bottom line is we will revisit Nimitz as part of the FY-24 shipbuilding plan.”
Conn described extending the lives of any of the Nimitz-class carriers as “pre-decisional.”
“There are questions based on real-world events – does it make sense? Based on the number of planned carriers we may have in maintenance in certain years, it may make sense and maybe worth the return on investment of getting another year or more from the carriers that we have,” he said.
The Navy has been mulling extensions for the Nimitz-class carriers for the last few years. In September 2020, Program Executive Officer for Carriers Rear Adm. James Downey said Nimitz had more potential beyond its scheduled timeline and that it could be in service from 52 to 55 years.
The U.S. Navy 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), USS George Washington (CVN 73), USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), are the largest warships in the world, each designed for an approximately 50-year service life with just a single mid-life refueling. The next generation of aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford-class (CVN 78) was ordered in September 2008 as the force structure replacement for USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which inactivated in 2012.
The typical air wing aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier consists of:
- Four Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadrons, with twelve F/A-18E/F Super Hornets each [One squadron of Super Hornets will be replaced by a squadron with ten Navy or USMC F-35C Lightning IIs in the near future. Actually, ten F-35Cs belonging to the VFA-147, the first active-duty US Navy Lightning II unit, have recently completed their first operational deployment aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). Moreover 10 Marine Corps F-35Cs from the “Black Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314), the first USMC F-35C Squadron, are currently aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)].
- One Electronic Attack (VAQ) Squadron, made up of five EA-18G Growlers.
- One Carrier Airborne Early Warning (VAW) Squadron, with four E-2C Hawkeyes or five E-2D “Advanced” Hawkeyes.
- One Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron of eight MH-60S Seahawks.
- One Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron of eleven MH-60R Seahawks, 3–5 of which are typically based in detachments on other ships of the carrier strike group.
- A Fleet Logistics Support (VRC) Squadron Detachment of two C-2A Greyhounds.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy