The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is a "supercarrier" serving in the US Navy and the lead ship of her class. As of 2010 she was laid up at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington for maintenance, and scheduled to be transferred to her new home port of Everett, Washington in December 2011. She was named for World War II Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (1885-1966), the last person to hold that rank.
The Nimitz was commissioned on 3 May 1975 under the command of Captain Bryan W. Compton, Jr.
All Nimitz- class carriers were built at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. The lead vessel's keel was laid in June 1968 and the completed carrier was launched in May 1972. Nimitz, also known as "Old Salt," has a displacement of over 110,000 tons and measures 1092 feet from bow to stern. She is powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors driving four steam turbines and carries a compliment of 3200 officers and seamen in addition to 2,480 pilots and aviation support crew.
Repairs and Upgrades
Aircraft carriers, particularly those as large and complex as the Nimitz- class, require frequent and expensive maintenance. With nuclear carriers, maintenance periods are less frequent but the vessel spends a substantially longer time in drydock; for example, her Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) that was carried out at the Newport News facility started on 2 March 1998 and lasted until the end of June 2001. Prior to this, Nimitz was in drydock at the Puget Sound Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington between the end of January until late August 1994.
The Nimitz made deployments to European waters the Mediterranean in the late 1970s that were routine. In the fall of 1979 however, she was ordered to the Indian Ocean in response to the Iran Hostage Crisis, remaining there until May 1980. During this mission, "Old Salt" was used in the science fiction film The Final Countdown.
In 1981, Nimitz returned to the Mediterranean. In August, she was involved in an incident with Libyan aircraft (the "Gulf of Sidra Incident"). She returned to the Mediterranean three more times, in 1983, 1985 and 1986-87. After her last tour of the Mediterranean, she was transferred to the Puget Sound Naval Base (NS Kitsap) in Bremerton, Washington. This would be her home port for the next ten years.
The carrier was sent to the Far East in order to provide security during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Later that year found her in the Arabian Sea, protecting Kuwaiti oil tankers.
From November 1995 through March 1996, Nimitz was again deployed to the Far East and Indian Ocean to monitor missile tests then being carried out by the Chinese. The following year on 1 September, the carrier embarked on a six-month circumnavigation of the globe, ending the voyage at the place of her birth. Here, she would remain for three years undergoing maintenance and repairs.
In 2001, Nimitz was reassigned to San Diego. During the early years of the present century, Nimitz has been deployed to the Middle East several times as well as a deployment to the Far East in 2008 during which there was an incident with two Russian aircraft.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
Asbestos was employed extensively throughout carriers constructed prior to the 1980s, particularly in engine rooms and fuel and ordnance storage facilities. Naval vessels frequently suffer damage during peacetime as the result of accidents. These incidents can cause the release of excess asbestos fiber as well. Four incidents aboard Nimitz are worth mentioning. There was a primary coolant water leak from one of the nuclear reactors on 11 May 1979. A little over two years later, a night landing accident in which an incoming aircraft struck other vehicles on the flight deck resulted in a fire and explosion, resulting in nearly sixty casualties. In April 1996, a seaman was killed and four other injured when an arresting cable snapped as a plane attempted to land. Most recently, three seamen and a shipyard worker were electrocuted when working on a power switchboard.
When science proved that asbestos insulation was a major health concern to everyone exposed to it, the US Navy started winding down the use of this substance in ships and shipyards, and by about 1980 asbestos-containing material was generally not found. When an asbestos-based product is damaged it becomes friable, which means that individual fibers can break off and enter the air, and then are inhaled or ingested by ship's crew or dockworkers, causing mesothelioma.
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N/A. "USS Nimitz (CVA[N]-68)" Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (http://www.history.navy.mil/DANFS/n5/nimitz.htm). Updated 23 May 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
N/A. "Navy Announces USS Nimitz Homeport Change to Everett, Wash." US Department of Defense Press Release, 09 December 2010 (http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14128) Retrieved 13 December 2010.