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The Navy's Oldest Aircraft Carrier May Get A New Lease On Life
To help expand its fleet of aircraft carriers, the Navy could purchase two ships at once. That’s on the table right now.
It could also coax more life from its oldest carrier. That’s also under consideration, thanks to the House-passed 2019 defense spending blueprint.
A provision in the House’s 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directs the Navy to consider extending the service life of the USS Nimitz, built at Newport News Shipbuilding and commissioned in 1975.
It tells Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer to brief the House Armed Services Committee no later than March 1, 2019, “on options that exist to extend the service life of USS Nimitz, to include the extension of major components,” according to the bill’s text. “Additionally, such a briefing should include cost estimates and major modernization components.”
The bill doesn’t specify the scope of the work or how many extra years the Nimitz would remain in service.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 transits into San Diego prior to mooring at Naval Air Station North Island on July 29, 2009.U.S. Navy
Depending on the level of complexity, a life-extension could fall to Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. The shipyard is the sole designer, builder and refueler of nuclear-powered carriers. The Navy’s four public shipyards, including Norfolk Naval Shipyard, can handle more routine maintenance and upgrades of the nuclear fleet.
Rep. Rob Wittman, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee panel on sea power, doesn’t see anyone proposing a mid-life overhaul for Nimitz. That would require defueling the ship’s nuclear reactors and cost several billion dollars.
“I think what you look at are regular types of shorter-term maintenance,” he said.
Why spend any resources on the Navy’s oldest operational carrier? Because the Pentagon is committed to expanding its carrier fleet from 11 to 12 as soon as possible. Keeping the Nimitz active for a few more years helps with that numbers game, as the bill’s text points out.
Last year’s delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy pushed the carrier fleet up to 11. The Navy will reach its 12-carrier goal when the next Ford-class ship, the John F. Kennedy, is delivered in 2023. But it will quickly drop back to 11 that same year, when the Nimitz is scheduled to be retired, according to the text.
Keeping the Nimitz around a few more years prevents that drop.
The final version of the NDAA must be hammered out in a House-Senate conference. But the House language on Nimitz is simply a directive that the Defense Department will comply with; it doesn’t have to be part of the final negotiations.
The drive to 12
While visiting the Newport News shipyard last year, President Trump made it clear that he wants a 12-carrier fleet. The House’s NDAA also supports a 12-carrier fleet. It is part of the Navy’s drive to expand its entire fleet of warships to 355, which will take decades.
However, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget recently issued a memo that seems to take issue with carrier funding. The House NDAA provision that increases the requirement from 11 to 12 “may not be sustainable within the Navy’s current top line,” the memo states.
Wittman, whose committee is influential on shipbuilding matters, said that language is not a show-stopper.
“I think what they’re doing is making sure we have the commitment in dollars going forward,” he said, adding that carriers are always funded in increments, not all at once. “The provision says there is not enough money to purchase an entire aircraft carrier. We know that, and we’ve certainly done this multiple times in the past. I think what it does is send a signal to make sure we are paying for these efforts in the right magnitude and the right time.”
Wittman said he’s talked with key members of the House and Senate on the funding process and said of OMB’s observation: “This is not going to change anything.”
The other issue on the table regarding carriers is whether the Navy will seek to purchase two ships at once. A two-carrier buy would involve the future USS Enterprise, now undergoing advance work at Newport News, plus the fourth Ford-class carrier, not yet named.
Newport News Shipbuilding has submitted a proposal to the Navy on a bulk buy, and the Navy is currently considering it.
©2018 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.
On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.
U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.
The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.