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Readying carrier Ford for deployment, US Navy considers further life extensions for Nimitz class

The US Navy expects to deploy USS Gerald R Ford later this year. (Michael Fabey)

With aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) being prepared for its first – and unique – operational deployment, the US Navy (USN) is eyeing further potential nuclear-core life extensions for its Nimitz-class ships, according to Congresswoman Elaine Luria.

“I understand the navy is looking at those options,” Luria said on 4 February during a discussion on navy matters at the Hudson Institute.

Most recently, the USN has proposed the cancellation of proposed refuellings for nuclear-powered carriers to shift that money for other programmes, particularly unmanned efforts.

However, Luria, the vice-chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Virginia representative whose district is home to many workers at Newport News Shipbuilding, which constructs and overhauls carriers, wants the navy to instead focus on possibly extending Nimitz-class nuclear carrier cores even longer to ensure operational capacity as the nation shifts to Ford-class ships, which uses a different reactor.

“Once you shut down production for the [Nimitz-class] core, it's not viable to start it up again,” Luria said. “I would like the navy to be forward leading, to extend the [nuclear core] service life if possible.”

With carriers lined up on a refuelling schedule, the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) scheduled for decommission later this decade, and the preparation of Ford for its deployment, there's a great deal of backlog building for the carrier work, Luria pointed out.

“You keep adding and adding and adding,” she said. “There [is] only so much capacity on the waterfront.”

The navy has indicated that it could delay the Nimitz decommissioning. And the service is pushing Ford

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