A check-in on USN carriers

So we’re all doing the Iran war scare thing again. Where are the US Navy’s aircraft carriers? As always, there is a useful summary here.

Whatever John Bolton may say, Abraham Lincoln didn’t deploy last week. In fact she sailed from Norfolk, Virginia on the 1st of April. She had to sail around this time because John Stennis had deployed in October 2018. US carriers have operated for years on the basis of a six-month deployment to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf, and the passage usually takes about a month either way, giving a voyage of eight to nine months and requiring the relieving carrier to sail about a month ahead of time. Stennis left the Middle East in mid-April, while Lincoln was already in the Mediterranean.

On the same basis, we can check on the overall availability of the ships. Bush, Washington, and Vinson are all in dry dock. Nimitz recently left dry dock but is still in the middle of a 15-month heavy maintenance phase. Reagan is carrying out sea trials after four months of maintenance, so will not be ready for some time. Stennis, having arrived back in the US today, will soon go into dock, and would need to resupply even if she were ordered to steam all the way back to the Gulf. Lincoln is already committed.

This leaves Truman, Eisenhower, and Roosevelt. This in itself is more availability than there was during several previous scares, although this is more of a statement about how empty some of the scares were.

In more detail, though, Eisenhower came out of dry dock in November and was in further maintenance until the end of March, when she began sea trials. Since then, she underwent tests to regain the flight deck safety certification and was used for pilots in training to practice their carrier landings. This puts her still a long way from readiness, needing to train her own air wing, exercise the ship as a unit, and exercise the task group before being available.

Roosevelt completed post-maintenance sea trials before Christmas and has been working up through the cycle this spring. She re-certified the flight deck and qualified her air wing in February, but since then has been supporting pilot training around Southern California. She has yet to carry out either the ship or task group exercises.

Finally, Truman is probably available as soon as she can reach the Gulf. The ship has been operating in the Atlantic last year, supporting various NATO exercises, and took part in a logistics exercise off Virginia. She is currently in Norfolk. Obviously if she were to start steaming eastwards at full speed this would be an indicator of real trouble, but so far this hasn’t happened.

Carrier availability is therefore unremarkable, with one deployed, Reagan in Japan in fairly low availability, one ship available as a reserve, and the rest of the force either tied to a wall or working through a normal maintenance cycle.

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