The USS George Washington (CVN-73) is a nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier currently serving in the US Navy. She is the sixth of ten "supercarriers" of this class, commissioned on 4 July 1992. Her current home port is the US Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan.
The keel of the George Washington was laid down in August of 1986 at the Northrop-Grumman Shipbuilding Company in Newport News, Virginia. The completed vessel was launched on 21 July, 1990.
Measuring 1,092 feet from bow to stern, the George Washington has a beam of 257 feet with a flight deck area totaling 4.5 acres. The vessel displaces 99,000 tons and has a total crew compliment of 6,250 officers and seamen.
Propulsion for the vessels is provided by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors operating four steam turbines.
Repairs and Upgrades
Nuclear-powered carriers require somewhat less in the way of maintenance, but those maintenance periods tend to be longer and more complex. In addition, technological upgrades are frequent.
Between 13 February and 31 July 2001, George Washington underwent what is known as a "Planned Incremental Availability" (PIA) at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. During this time, ships computer and weapons systems were upgraded along with berthing areas and climate control.
The carrier underwent a second PIA from 28 January until December 2005, during which improved jet blast deflectors were installed and missile launchers were replaced with newer equipment.
From 27 May until 21 August 2008, the George Washington was laid up at NS San Diego for repairs to areas damaged by a fire. Between 3 September 2009 and 11 May 2010, the carrier underwent major refits in port at Yokosuka.
Since launching, George Washington has been deployed nine times. During her first deployment, she was present at the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion; she was also sent to the Persian Gulf twice as a deterrent to a threatened Iraqi invasion of commercial oil fields in Kuwait. In 1996, the vessel played a part in the Balkans conflict and later assisted in enforcement of the "No Fly Zone" over southern Iraq during Operation Southern Watch. Issues in the Middle East brought her back to the Persian Gulf in 1997 and 2000. Later that year, she was ordered to the Adriatic on a peacekeeping mission when violence threatened to break out again in the former Yugoslavia.
After the collapse of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, the George Washington was ordered to the port of New York to provide airspace defense for several weeks. The following year, the carrier was sent to the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom. During her sixth deployment in 2004, the carrier spent six months in the eastern Mediterranean and the waters off the Arabian peninsula.
2006 found George Washington in the Caribbean for joint exercises and crew exchanges with vessels of various Latin American naval forces. Following this, she went into the yard to prepare for her transfer to NS Yokosuka and duty in the Far East. This transfer, scheduled for the summer of 2008, was delayed because of a fire. She finally arrived in Japan in September of that year.
Since that time, George Washington has visited several Asian ports as well as Australia, and has been engaging in joint exercises with the naval forces of South Korea.
Asbestos Risk on the USS George Washington (CVN-73)
The use of asbestos aboard naval vessels was largely phased out in the 1980s, and remaining asbestos aboard earlier vessels was removed during the 1990s. There have been two serious accidents aboard the George Washington. While off the Virginia coast on 11 September 2003, an arresting wire snapped, injuring eleven crewmen and destroying one aircraft. On 22 May 2008, a fire broke out near the vessel's air conditioning system, resulting in 37 casualties. A later investigation revealed that the fire was caused by unauthorized cigarette smoking around flammable materials.
Once medical research conclusively showed that asbestos exposure was a major health concern to anyone working with it, the Navy began winding down the deployment of this substance in ships and shore installations, and by the 1980s asbestos-containing material was not often found. If asbestos is damaged it can become "friable", which means that fibers can be broken off and enter the atmosphere, and then are breathed in by ship's crew and dockworkers, increasing the odds of developing mesothelioma.
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Polmar, Norman. The Naval Institute Guide To Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004.)
USN. "Welcome Aboard USS George Washington."
http://gw.ffc.navy.mil/ Retrieved 15 December 2010.