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Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson returns to San Diego

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) plows through the Indian Ocean as aircraft on its flight deck are prepared for flight operations on March 15, 2005. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class Dusty Howell)

A third carrier again calls San Diego home as the USS Carl Vinson returns Wednesday from more than a year and a half in the maintenance yards of Bremerton, Wash.

The ship and its crew left San Diego in January 2019, shifting its home port as it underwent periodic maintenance. The dry dock in Bremerton is the only one on the West Coast large enough to accommodate a Nimitz-class carrier.

The ship received a retrofit to accommodate the latest Navy fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, along with upgrades to crew living spaces and electrical systems, the Navy said in a statement.

Many of the ship’s crew left their families behind in San Diego while they went to Washington with the ship, the Navy said, making its return a homecoming event. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, access to the ship’s berth at Naval Air Station North Island is limited.

Aircraft carriers, with about a 3,500 permanently-based crew, have a significant economic impact on the region. According to the San Diego Military Advisory Council, which publishes an annual report on the region’s military economy, each carrier contributes about $800 million in gross regional product.

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San Diego’s status as the permanent home of three carriers is a limited one. The Navy recently announced the USS Theodore Roosevelt will rotate to Bremerton for maintenance in 2021.

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© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune