Tag Archives: USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)

After 60 years you’re still the most beautiful ship in the world

As we covered in a past Warship Wednesday on the Italian Navy’s historic nave scuola (training ship) Amerigo Vespucci (A5312), according to legend, while sailing in the Med in the 1960s, the 80,000-ton Forrestal-class supercarrier USS Independence, on a deployment with the Sixth Fleet duty in support of President John F. Kennedy’s firm stand on the newly-established Berlin Wall, came across a strange tall ship at sea.

The carrier flashed the vessel, Vespucci, with the light signal asking, “Who are you?” The answer, “Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy,” came back. Independence was said to have replied, “You are the most beautiful ship in the world.”

AMERIGO VESPUCCI Italian Training Ship, Sails past USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) in the Mediterranean, 12 July 1962. The Navy later used this image on recruiting posters and advertising in the 1960s and 70s. USN 1061621

Well, in a salute to that exchange, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) transited the Adriatic Sea alongside Vespucci on 1 September to commemorate the (just passed) 60th anniversary of the 1962 meeting between Indy and Italy’s senior national vessel.

As related by the Marina Militare, the signal from the big American flat top remained very similar: “Amerigo Vespucci, after 60 years you’re still the most beautiful ship in the world”

The Navy also marked the Bush’s 25 August passage through the Strait of Gibraltar with a nice time-lapse video. 

Of note, the GHWBCSG is comprised of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron 26, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).

“The GHWBCSG is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests.” 

Speaking of carrier news…

In case you missed it, the Indian Navy’s third aircraft carrier– after the Kiev-class INS Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov) and Centaur-class INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes)– and first to be indigenously built, the brand new INS Vikrant (R11), was commissioned last week on 2 September after a 23-year planning and construction period.

The new $3 billion (which is a bargain compared to a $13 billion Ford-class CVN) carrier runs 860 feet overall and hits the scales with a 45,000-ton displacement, making her roughly the size of an old Essex-class fleet carrier of WWII or a current LHA/LHD but sans landing equipment. Using a COGAG suite of four LM2500 gas turbines– the same as an Arleigh Burke— she can make 30 knots. 

She actually compares well to the new $7.4 billion 65,000-ton British Queen Elizabeth class carriers, although it should be pointed out that the QEs operate F-35s (if they ever get enough of them). 

The Indian carrier’s armament is Italian/Israeli/Russian, electronics are from all over Europe, and her air group (for now) will be 30-ish STOBAR ski-jumped MiG-29Ks and a few Kamov Ka-31 ASW helicopters. However, this is set to change as the Indians are receiving MH-60Rs from the U.S. and it is between Dassault Rafale-M and the F-18E/F (with odds going towards the cheaper French option). 
 
Boeing recently completed ski jump tests with a Super Hornet loaded with two 500lb laser-guided bombs, AIM9Xs, and AIM-120s.
 

USN Flattop Updates

The Navy has seen several important carrier and carrier-adjacent benchmarks this week that I thought were noteworthy enough to mention “in case you missed it.”

Lightning Carrier No.4

The fourth Wasp-class Gator Supreme, USS Boxer (LHD-4) returned to sea for the first time in more than two years after completing an extensive $207 million planned maintenance availability at BAE Systems in San Diego.

She is now about to be F-35B rated as a “Lightning Carrier” by 2023. Her sisterships USS Wasp, Essex, and Makin Island already have the same capability and Iwo Jima and Bataan are set to be added to the list in 2024-25.

By themselves, the four modded Wasps offer more carrier power than any other current fleet of flattops in the world not flying a U.S. flag.

“The USS Boxer [dry-dock availability] will complete a combination of maintenance, modernization, and repair of the following systems: Hull structure, propulsion, electrical plant, auxiliary systems, and communications and combat systems, as well as alterations to prepare the ship for operations with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF),” according to a statement from Naval Sea Systems command in 2020.

Importantly, Boxer will also be the first Wasp to the Marine Corps to receive a complete F-35 set up for Spot 9 landings.

Boxer is a sweet spot for me, as I was working at Ingalls and am a constructor plankowner of the ship, having gone out on her pre-commissioning cruise before she was handed over. Nice to see her back in the fleet.

Warship78 passes INSURV

Class leader supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully completed her five-day Board of Inspection and Survey special trial, “marking the first time a Ford-class ship executed an inspection of this kind.” Of course, she was commissioned five years ago, so it’s kinda about time, but between weapon elevator issues, EMALS and so many other new systems, it is understandable, and the inspection sets the ship up for her “special deployment” which is just around the corner.

“During INSURV, more than 180 inspectors embarked Ford, observing and assessing more than 300 demonstrations,” noted the Navy.

Damage Controlman Fireman Melissa Alvarado, right, from Dalton, Georgia, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) engineering department, displays equipment during a damage control Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) special trials, June 13, 2022. Ford is in port at Naval Station Norfolk conducting an INSURV assessment to report ship readiness and ensure all spaces and equipment meet Navy standards. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Timewell)

80K for GHWB

USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), the tenth and final Nimitz-class supercarrier, celebrated the milestone of 80,000 catapult launches and 80,000 recoveries on the flight deck since she was commissioned in 2009. The 80K bird was an EA-18G Growler from The Patriots of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 on the trap and the cat was an E-2D Hawkeye from The Bluetails of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, and was part of the certification for the Freedom Fighters of CVW-7.

220615-N-SY758-3033 ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 15, 2022) An E/A-18G Growler, attached to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) for the 80,000th recovery, June 15, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brandon Roberson)

Is Warship 78 Actually just over the Horizon?

The very troublesome new first-in-class supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has a lot of gee-whiz improvements over the 10 tried-and-true Nimitz class flattops which have been the backbone of Naval Aviation since the 1990s when they surpassed the legacy “smokers” of the Midway, Forrestal, and Kitty Hawk class in numbers. This includes a new nuclear plant with the (crucial) ability to generate nearly three times the amount of electrical power, an innovative advanced arresting gear, and the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) that enables the Navy to leave the old (reliable) steam gear behind, and other improvements that lead to a huge ship that requires fewer Bluejackets to sail and fight.

One of the improvements was the promised Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWE) which the Navy billed as “using several advanced technologies including electromagnetic motors vice more labor-intensive, hydraulic systems,” that enables fewer sailors to safely move ordnance from weapons magazines to the flight deck with unparalleled speed and agility.”

The thing is, they didn’t work and the contractor has been scrambling for years to get them fixed. Finally, on Wednesday PEO Aircraft Carriers reported that the 11th and final AWE has been installed and turned over to Ford’s crew.


Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department, receive MK-82 500-pound class inert bombs on one of Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, May 30, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)

“This is a significant milestone for the Navy, ship, and her crew,” said RADM James P. Downey, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers. “With the completion of this final AWE, we now have the entire system to operate and train with.”

The work comes as Ford is at Newport News Shipyard in support of her Planned Incremental Availability (PIA), a six-month period of modernization, maintenance, and repairs, that began in September. When she emerges in March 2022, she will start workups for her inaugural deployment.

Keep in mind that she has already gone through 21 months of post-delivery tests and trials (PDT&T) and Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST), as she was delivered to the Navy by Newport News in May 2017 after eight years of construction.

Now to get EMALS working. Designed to achieve 4,166 aircraft launches between operational mission failures, a DoD report earlier this year said it went 181 launches between failures, or “well below the requirement.” 

It’s not like USS Nimitz was laid down in 1968 or anything…

This looks bad when you consider the Brits have, with a smaller shipbuilding industry and without having crafted a large-deck carrier since the 1950s, was able to construct their new 65,000-ton carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)— laid down the same year as Ford— by 2017 and just completed an extensive halfway-around-the-world deployment with her, albeit with some of help from “The Colonies.”

Let’s hope this lengthy teething period will help streamline the (successful) delivery of Ford’s classmates, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80), and Doris Miller (CVN 81).

Likewise, Navy Air is not standing still, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation Demonstration (UCAD) of the MQ-25A unmanned air system prototype aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) has been going on this month, and shows promise, especially when it comes to halting the waste of using half the fleet’s Hornets to refuel the other half for strikes further than 400 miles out.

George is a big boy…

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), after a decade with the fleet, arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), Feb. 21, for a 28-month dry-docking planned incremental availability (DPIA). Bush will be on blocks for the majority of her yard period.

As noted by the Navy, “Dry-docking and maintaining a 103,000 ton, 1,092-foot aircraft carrier is complex work. This DPIA marks the first time George H.W. Bush has not been waterborne since 2006. Requiring an estimated 1.3 million man-days, it will be the most extensive maintenance period for the ship yet and one of the most complex CVN chief of naval operations availabilities in recent NNSY history.”

Hauled out in drydock, she is impressive:

Those anchors, tho.

The shipyard workforce will be providing approximately 775,000 man-days, with ship’s force, alteration installation teams and contractor work comprising the rest.

Now if they can just keep the Navy from decommissioning the 23-year-old USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) from being put to pasture prematurely, all will be good.

According to the FY2020 Navy budget, Truman would not be funded for a midlife refueling, which is surely news to the lawmakers and policy wonks that talked up the planned 50-year lifespan of the vessel to get her funded in 1988 when she was ordered.

While Big Navy and the Acting SECDEF supports the move as freeing up cash for other items (read= F35s), it seems like a repeat of the time they decommissioned the USS America (CV-66) to avoid putting that flattop through a SLEP that would have extended her life for another 10-15 years.

And we all remember what happened to USS America…