Saved from Early Retirement, USS Harry S Truman Set for Mid-Career Overhaul

Harry S Truman carrier
Carrier Harry S Truman is set to begin the first phase of her mid-career overhaul and refueling (US Navy file photo)

Published Feb 2, 2024 6:31 PM by The Maritime Executive


Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman, which was saved in 2019 from a possible early retirement, is now set to undergo her mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH). This follows the awarding of a $913 million advanced planning contract to Newport News Shipbuilding announced this week.

Plans to proceed with the midlife overhaul for the Truman is a significant development considering that in 2019, its future had been in doubt after senior Pentagon officials led by then acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan pushed for an early decommissioning in 2024. The move was presented as a cost-saving measure because it would have saved about $3.4 billion over five years and up to $30 billion throughout the ship’s remaining career.

Following opposition from Congress, then President Trump overruled plans for an early retirement of the carrier that was christened in 1996 and commissioned in 1998. Her out-of-service date was originally projected for the early 2060s. So far in her career, she played a vital role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the 2016 mission against ISIS, and during the pandemic had her tour extended so that she spent 32 of 36 months underway. Instead of returning to her homeport in November 2019 as scheduled, she stayed at sea until July 2020.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is one of the 10 Nimitz-class ships that were built by NNS, with the last one entering service in January 2009. Each of the carriers is nearly 1,100 feet (333 meters) in length and 102,000 dwt. Her full complement is over 550 officers and nearly 5,500 enlisted personnel, including as many as 2,500 in her air wing.

The Truman has now been scheduled to return to NNS for her refueling and overhaul, with the first phase of the project including engineering, design, material procurement and fabrication, documentation, resource forecasting, and pre-overhaul inspections. HII did not specify when the carrier whose last major assignment was a nine-month-long deployment to the Atlantic and Eastern Mediterranean in 2022, will be arriving at the Virginia yard.

“Comprehensive planning is vitally important to the overall success of an engineering and construction project of this magnitude on the aircraft carriers,” said Rob Check, NNS vice president of in-service aircraft carrier programs. “This contract allows us to properly plan for each step in the overhaul process, from preparing for the ship’s arrival at NNS to its redelivery back to the Navy.”

HII, owners of Newport News Shipbuilding, highlighted that the Truman will be the eighth Nimitz-class carrier to undergo RCOH. Each of the projects is said to represent 35 percent of all maintenance and modernization completed during each carrier’s 50-year service life.

The project involves taking the carriers out of service for about four years to modify, repair, and upgrade everything from the hull to mechanical and electrical systems. Upgrades are also carried out on the electronics managing their communications and warfare systems. A crucial process involves the refueling of the ship’s two nuclear reactors. The overall objective of the RCOH is to ensure the carriers operate for another 25 years.

Currently, USS John C. Stennis is at the yard undergoing its RCOH, while USS George Washington completed its RCOH last year after an extended six-year period that was characterized by challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, supplier interruptions, and competing requirements for resources. The redelivery was nearly two years behind schedule after having lasted over 2,100 days.