USS John C. Stennis arrives at HII facilities for maintenance

USS John C. Stennis
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The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) departed Naval Station Norfolk and transited to Newport News Shipyard May 6, to begin its nearly 4-year Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) maintenance period.

The overhaul of the USS John C. Stennis from the keel up is a massive combined effort between the ship’s crew, Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) and other contractors. Their collective work will prepare the ship for the second half of its 50-year service life.

“We cannot accomplish this mission without the partnership we’ve established over the last year with NNS,” said Capt. Cassidy Norman, commanding officer of the USS John C. Stennis. “RCOH is critical to the future operation of the ship and takes tremendous planning and teamwork to get to the finish line.”

RCOH accounts for approximately 35 percent of all depot-level maintenance in the ship’s life. This maintenance period was created to recapitalize the nation’s aircraft carriers and quickly get them back in the fight. RCOH extends the life of one of the nation’s most strategically critical national assets.

At the 25-year mark in a carrier’s life, it will typically go through RCOH. This process involves years of continuous planning and assessments, disassembly and replacement of surfaces and structures, and replacement of, or repairs to, complex machinery and systems. Essentially, the ship is gutted, rebuilt, and modernized.

uss john c. stennis
The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) gets underway from Naval Station Norfolk as it transits to Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) for Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in Newport News, Virginia, May 6, 2021 (US Navy)

In preparation for RCOH, the ship went through a maintenance process called “Smart Start,” in which temporary services and systems were installed throughout the ship, decking and catapult equipment was removed, painting, lagging and tile sampling was done, and refuelling preparations were made.

A component of Smart Start also included the Shipboard Consolidated Offload and Outfitting Plan (SCOOP). During SCOOP the crew and contractors worked together to remove equipment, tools, devices and almost everything not built into the ship, and placed it into storage.

While in Newport News, the ship will accomplish major key events including propulsion plant repairs, shore steaming, cold operations, hot operations, and power range testing. This work will prepare the ship to conduct a total ship test program, followed by “fast cruise,” sea trials, and finally it will be ready to carry out operations at sea.

“For the last three years, we have planned each step of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis’ RCOH, including procuring long lead-time materials, conducting shipboard inspections and readying our facilities for this extensive engineering and construction project,” said Todd West, Newport News’ vice president, in-service aircraft carrier programs. “We look forward to continuing our work with the ship’s crew and our 579 vendors across 36 states that provide material and services which brings stability of this industrial base and is critical to our ability to continue to build and maintain the Navy fleet our Navy and nation needs.”

USS John C. Stennis is the seventh Nimitz-class carrier to undergo this major mid-life availability, representing 35% of all maintenance and modernization completed during its 50-year service life. Over the next four years, Newport News will perform hull and freeboard blast and paint, repairs to its propellers, sea chests, shafts, and rudders and defueling and refueling of its power plant.

This effort, which will continue through late 2025, will produce a recapitalized carrier capable of supporting current and future warfare doctrine while continuing to operate as the centrepiece of the Navy fleet and national defence for another 25 years.

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USS John C. Stennis

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