Home Americas US carrier John C. Stennis starting 4-year nuclear refueling overhaul

US carrier John C. Stennis starting 4-year nuclear refueling overhaul

USS John C. Stennis
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) gets underway from Naval Station Norfolk as it transits to Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) for Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in Newport News, Virginia, May 6, 2021. Photo: US Navy

US Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) got underway from the Naval Station Norfolk and transited to Newport News Shipyard on May 6, to begin its nearly 4-year nuclear refueling procedure.

Also known as the Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) maintenance period, the undertaking will overhaul the ship from the keel up.

The effort will prepare the carrier for the second half of its 50 year service life.

“We cannot accomplish this mission without the partnership we’ve established over the last year with NNS,” said Capt. Cassidy Norman, commanding officer of the John C. Stennis. “RCOH is critical to the future operation of the ship and takes tremendous planning and teamwork to get to the finish line.”

RCOH accounts for approximately 35 percent of all depot-level maintenance in the ship’s life. This maintenance period was created to recapitalize the nation’s aircraft carriers and quickly get them back in the fight. RCOH extends the life of one of the nation’s most strategically critical national assets.

At the 25-year mark in a carrier’s life it will typically go through RCOH. This process involves years of continuous planning and assessments, disassembly and replacement of surfaces and structures, and replacement of, or repairs to, complex machinery and systems. Essentially, the ship is gutted, rebuilt, and modernized.

In preparation for RCOH the ship went through a maintenance process called “Smart Start,” in which temporary services and systems were installed throughout the ship, decking and catapult equipment was removed, painting, lagging and tile sampling was done, and refueling preparations were made.

While in Newport News, the ship will accomplish major key events including propulsion plant repairs, shore steaming, cold operations, hot operations, and power range testing. This work will prepare the ship to conduct a total ship test program, followed by “fast cruise,” sea trials, and finally it will be ready to carry out operations at sea.

“For the last three years, we have planned each step of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis’ RCOH, including procuring long lead-time materials, conducting shipboard inspections and readying our facilities for this extensive engineering and construction project,” said Todd West, Newport News’ vice president, in-service aircraft carrier programs. “We look forward to continuing our work with the ship’s crew and our 579 vendors across 36 states that provide material and services which brings stability of this industrial base and is critical to our ability to continue to build and maintain the Navy fleet our Navy and nation needs.”

Stennis will be the seventh Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to undergo an RCOH. She will be dry-docked at NNS, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, for an approximate, 48-month maintenance period.