The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) will keep undergoing maintenance at least through early 2019, almost a year beyond the original six-month availability.
On Sept. 22, CVN-69’s commanding officer, Capt. Kyle Higgins, said in a message on the ship’s Facebook [FB] community page that while he could not specifically cite how long the ship will stay at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard it will be there at least “into the beginning of next year.”
Higgins acknowledged “a lot of uncertainty on how long this maintenance period would last,” but said the Eisenhower (known as IKE) “is a 41-year-old dynamo.”
The Eisenhower first arrived in Norfolk in August 2017 in preparation for an expected six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) maintenance and upgrade period. The work is focusing on nuclear special emphasis work plus various mechanical and electrical improvements.
At the time, project superintendent Matt Merciez said the Navy accelerated the production completion date so the PIA would not fall in the middle of the winter holidays (Defense Daily, Aug. 16, 2017)
CVN-69 then started the PIA in September, with an initial expected completion date of spring 2018 (Defense Daily, Sept. 22, 2017).
Higgins said the ship’s most recent 2016 deployment accomplished a lot, “but that came at a price. You can’t put a ship through so much without having equipment break and having to replace other parts. That’s true of any warship, even Mighty IKE.”
Higgins compared the carrier to a classic car with plenty of miles on it being taken to the shop and more work pops up than initially expected.
“This is a 41-year-old-ship and much like a vintage car, there are always things we can’t anticipate.”
He continued that like the car, while extra work is done to correct additional issues, “you’re able to get some other work done on it at the same time – new upholstery, took care of some rusty areas – while the mechanics are working on the front end.”
However, this dynamic leads to work taking longer, rework, and more issues being found that need to be fixed leading to a growing repair list. So now second- and third-order effects the Navy did not anticipate put the ship in the position where the Navy will need to requalify reactor sailors for their watch stations during this continuing work.
This is within a larger picture of needing the sailors to get trained and qualified for the ship in Norfolk before the work is finished.
“When we get to the other side of these challenges we’ll be ready to go to sea and begin training as a team with the rest of strike group and prepare to head out to wherever we’re needed,” Higgins added.