The Navy Is Decommissioning Two Nuclear Aircraft Carriers in a Row

arabian gulf, august 13, 2013 the aircraft carrier uss nimitz cvn 68 is underway in the arabian gulf
The Navy Is Decommissioning Two Aircraft CarriersStocktrek Images - Getty Images

It’s time to wish fair winds and following seas to some of the U.S. Navy’s shrinking fleet.

The service will decommission two nuclear aircraft carriers, and two Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships will go up for sale to foreign militaries. The USS Nimitz will leave the service in 2026, while the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will retire a year later. It’s part of a long-term effort to modernize the current fleet of approximately 485 ships.

Decommissioning History

Over the decades, the two aircraft carriers heading to the chopping block have played significant roles in military conflicts. The 48-year-old USS Nimitz (CVN-68) was commissioned in 1975 and built for a 50-year service life.

The Nimitz is one of the largest warships in the world, with a length of 1,092 feet, a beam of 252 feet, and a displacement of 100,020 tons. It can carry up to 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and has a crew of about 6,000 personnel. The ship is powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors that provide a speed of over 30 knots and an unlimited range. It has sensors and weapons systems including radars, electronic warfare systems, Sea Sparrow and Rolling Airframe missiles, Phalanx close-in weapons systems, and .50-caliber machine guns.

The Nimitz will sail to a Virginia shipyard after its last deployment to begin the complex deactivation process which involves removing nuclear fuel. Another former nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, has been engaged in a long-term deactivation process.

Enterprise and Nimitz are similar in that they are large, rugged ships containing low levels of various hazardous materials. However, they are of considerably different design, so the approach to inactivation will reflect those differences,” Jamie Koehler, a Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman, told Breaking Defense.

The USS Eisenhower, commissioned in 1977, can carry up to 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and has a crew of about 6,000 personnel.

LCS, We Hardly Knew You

The beleaguered class of Littoral Combat Ships will also see its numbers trimmed. USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Montgomery (LCS-8), commissioned in 2015 and 2016, will be sold to foreign navies. A total of 23 LCS vessels were commissioned over time, but Navy officials said that refocusing the class on mine countermeasure missions means fewer ships are needed.

The LCSs have been criticized for lacking armor, firepower, and redundancy, making them vulnerable to enemy attacks and accidents. The ships have also suffered from cost overruns and reliability issues.

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