The aircraft carrier George Washington will head back to the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet next year to serve as the Navy’s lone forward-deployed carrier, U.S. Pacific Fleet announced.

Washington will replace fellow carrier Ronald Reagan, which has been based out of Yokosuka, Japan, since 2015.

After Washington arrives in January, Reagan will head to Bremerton, Washington, for maintenance work, according to PACFLEET.

From 2008 to 2015, Washington served as the first nuclear-powered carrier forward-deployed to Japan.

The carrier has been in its so-called refueling and complex overhaul maintenance in Virginia since August 2017.

Washington was originally slated to leave the Newport News Shipbuilding yard in 2021 under a four-year schedule, which involves refueling the ship’s nuclear reactor along with other upgrades and maintenance.

But citing new work that emerged during the repair and pandemic-related labor challenges, Navy officials told Defense News, a sister publication, in March 2022 that the carrier would not leave the yard until December.

It did not leave the yard in December, and months later the ship remains in maintenance.

Naval Air Force Atlantic and Naval Sea Systems Command officials did not respond by deadline to Navy Times queries Monday regarding just when the ship would head back to sea.

Images made public by the Navy in recent months show training aircraft being loaded on the ship, as well as other steps suggesting Washington could be back underway sooner rather than later.

An April 26 post on the ship’s official Facebook page reports that sailors recently tested its reactor and propulsion plants “in preparation for taking the ship to sea for the first time in over six years.”

Clarification: this article has been updated to note that the aircraft carrier George Washington was the first nuclear-powered carrier forward-deployed to Japan.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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