Navy Aircraft Carrier Arrives in Norfolk for Two-Year Overhaul

It’s a memorable sight on the Elizabeth River: a 1,000-foot-long Navy aircraft carrier returning to her home port in Norfolk for an extended stay.

The Nimitz-class supercarrier USS H.W. Bush arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a 28-month dry-docking, during which crews will perform extensive upgrades.

USS H.W. Bush makes its way up the Elizabeth River. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Steven Edgar

Dry-docking and overhauling a 103,000 ton, 1,092-foot aircraft carrier is no small feat. It’s the first time since she was christened in 2006 that George H.W. Bush will be out of the water. The maintenance period will take an estimated 1.3 million man-days of work. Of those workdays, the shipyard workforce will do 775,000 man-days’ worth, and ship workers, installation teams, and contractors will perform the rest.

“There are a lot of first-time jobs all around, given this is the first time Bush has sat on keel blocks since being built,” said George H.W. Bush Project Superintendent Jeff Burchett.  “With the size of this work package, it will take a total team effort by Norfolk Naval Shipyard.”

The carrier upgrades will include “advanced technology such as exoskeleton suits, additive manufacturing, laser scanners to create virtual rigging paths, and the development of training models using virtual reality,” according to a U.S. Navy news release.

 USS George H.W. Bush at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
USS George H.W. Bush at Norfolk Naval Shipyard

This will be the first aircraft carrier docking at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in several years, and the shipyard’s dry dock needed upgrades of its own, just to accommodate the George H.W. Bush. It has taken 18 months to plan the dry docking.

“Our project team is poised and ready to take on this mission,” says Burchett.  “There’s a quote from George H.W. Bush himself that we have taken on as the project team motto: ‘This is my mission and I will complete it.’”

-Meg Walburn Viviano