The flight deck of the USS George Washington is already streaked with tire marks from aircraft landings just three months after the warship was welcomed back into the Navy fleet.
But as the carrier and its crew transition from a brutal six-year maintenance cycle, there is still much to be done to prepare for its next mission.
The Washington recently provided fleet support to new E-2 Hawkeye pilots working on carrier qualifications. The ship got underway for about two weeks, and reporters were invited aboard.
This marks the ship’s fourth venture out since leaving Newport News Shipbuilding for Naval Station Norfolk in May. The aircraft carrier had been a fixture at the shipyard since 2017 for its midlife refueling and complex overhaul. The process, which typically takes four years, was exacerbated by delays related to the pandemic.
When Capt. William Mathis reported to the carrier in March 2022, it was nearing the end of its heavy maintenance phase.
“It did not look like a ship when I arrived. The shell was a ship, but you walked inside and many spaces were not completed. There was a lot of bare metal everywhere, a lot of components still untested,” said Mathis, executive officer of the Washington.
Now, the ship, which still smells of fresh paint, is mostly complete, he said. The ship’s two nuclear reactors were refueled and its propulsion plant repaired, propellers refurbished and aircraft launch and recovery equipment modernized.
The Washington is in the basic phase of training, which is meant to teach the crew how to operate as a team as well as ensure the ship is ready in all mission areas.
“We still are building up the ship and building up the crew in many areas, as the crew is still very green,” Mathis said. “We have got a long way to go but we have come a long way.”
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