Three aircraft carriers will change home ports in response to maintenance and refueling schedules, the Navy announced Thursday.
Currently based in Norfolk, Virginia, the Lincoln will head to San Diego to join U.S. Pacific Fleet. The carrier was commissioned in 1989 and served under the Hawaii-based Pacific Fleet until 2011, when it was announced the ship would move to Norfolk for midlife refueling of its nuclear reactors. She arrived in Norfolk at the end of a round the world deployment in 2012.
It will join the Theodore Roosevelt as San Diego’s second carrier.
The 23-year-old Stennis will shift from Bremerton, Washington, to Norfolk for its own midlife refueling, which will take place roughly halfway through the carrier’s 50-year life. The ship will follow the carrier George Washington, which is currently undergoing her midlife overhaul at the Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Newport News Virginia.
The Washington entered that overhaul in August 2017 and is expected to depart in August 2021, when Stennis will take her place at the yard. The Newport News shipyard is the sole shipyard in the United States that not only builds the Navy’s aircraft carriers, but also performs their midlife refueling’s, too.
Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Vinson will sail to Bremerton in advance of its planned incremental availability maintenance stint at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The three-carrier homeport shift was announced Thursday evening by Naval Air Forces in San Diego.
When exactly all these moves will occur remains unclear.
Naval Air Forces spokesman Cmdr. Ronald Flanders declined comment, citing operational security.
But public records suggest the moves may commence next year.
The Abraham Lincoln completed her refueling overhaul in 2017 and is currently working up to deploy on the East Coast. As was the case when she arrived in Norfolk in 2012, Navy sources say it’s most likely she’ll change homeports once she completes workups and deploys and arrive in San Diego at the end of that deployment, though the Navy has yet to announce that move.
The Vinson is slated to begin its maintenance session in March, according to budget documents.
Meanwhile, the port swap of the Stennis was announced by Navy Personnel Command in May, and will become effective in May 2019. The ship is also working up for deployment and. as has been the Navy’s habit, will most likely move to Norfolk at the end of her next deployment, too.
The Vinson will join the Navy’s oldest-serving carrier, the Nimitz, in Washington state.
Whether the two carriers will operate together out of Bremerton remains unclear.
The Navy announced in 2015 that the Nimitz would stay in Bremerton through Fiscal 2019 as part of an effort to avoid sailors and their families having to make three homeport changes over a four-year period.
She was originally scheduled to shift her home port to Everett, Washington, in the summer of 2016 — returning to Bremerton two years later for maintenance before moving back to Everett in Fiscal 2019.
The Nimitz entered the dry dock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in March for a 15-month maintenance availability.