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Aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis heads home to Newport News for refueling and overhaul

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Joshua Word/Released)

Nudged by a team of tugs from its pier at Naval Station Norfolk,past the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel and the mouth of the James River, the carrier USS John C. Stennis moved Thursday to Newport News Shipbuilding, where it’ll bring work for more than 4,000 of the shipyard’s 25,000 employees over the next four years.

The 1,092-foot long nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carrier is back where it was built and delivered to the Navy in 1995. It is about to undergo a refueling and complex overhaul. That project will keep it in service for another quarter-century.

In addition to refueling the carrier’s nuclear reactor, the project involves a modernization of more than 2,300 compartments, hundreds of tanks and mechanical systems and installation of updated equipment. There will be major upgrades of the propulsion system, the flight deck, catapults, combat systems and the island, from which the carrier is navigated and air operations managed.

Engineers, technicians and support staff from the shipyard have been working on the Stennis overhaul since 2019.

But by the time they and the yard’s shipfitters, machinists, electricians pipefitters, riggers and welders are ready to turn the Stennis back over to the Navy, the Stennis’s crew, working alongside the shipbuilders, will put in 2 million hours worth of work. They’re taking on about a third of project.

Newport News Shipbuilding formally won the $2.99 billion contract for the bulk of the refueling and overhaul of the carrier USS John C. Stennis — a project it has been working on for years — earlier this year.

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