The aircraft carrier Enterprise was scheduled to be decommissioned as late as 2014. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead wants to retire the ship early. (PH3 Rob Gaston / Navy)
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SAN DIEGO - Navy officials on Friday extended the deployments for two aircraft carrier strike groups - Nimitz and Harry S. Truman - by nearly two months each to cover the expected gap in carrier coverage caused by shipyard delays in the maintenance overhaul of the carrier Enterprise.
Each deployment will run just under eight months, U.S. Pacific Fleet officials in Hawaii and U.S. Fleet Forces Command officials in Virginia announced in a joint statement. "The Navy remains committed to its general policy of maintaining deployment lengths to manage personnel tempo as essential components of force readiness," officials said.
The short-notice shift in the carriers' schedules includes an earlier departure of the Norfolk, Va.-based Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, which will leave on its next deployment "a few days earlier," said Cmdr. Phil Rosi, a Fleet Forces Command spokesman, on Friday afternoon.
Truman, which is preparing to deploy with its strike group, will deploy from its Norfolk berth later than planned for its scheduled next deployment in 2010, Rosi said. He declined to specify the length of that delay before the carrier will deploy from its Norfolk berth.
San Diego-based Nimitz left home July 31 for a scheduled deployment with its strike group slated to last about six months.
Enterprise had entered the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding shipyard in Newport News, Va., last year for an extended dry-dock selected restricted availability that initially would have been completed this summer.
But now Navy officials expect that work on the 48-year-old Enterprise, which the Navy plans to decommission in 2014, will be completed by December, Rosi said. "The need for the work came up as the ship proceeded through the availability," he said.
"Adjusting these carrier deployment schedules was the best solution of available options," Adm. J.C. Harvey, Jr., Fleet Forces commander, said in the statement. "We recognize this decision has operational and personnel impacts, such as training cycle changes and family uncertainty."
Adm. Robert F. Willard, who commands the Pacific Fleet, also acknowledged the impact on sailors and their families. "We will continue to invest in family support and readiness programs to try to reduce the stress of lengthy deployments - we owe it to them, and I am committed to it," Willard said.