On this day: Aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush launched in Virginia

Photo: US Navy

U.S. Navy’s final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush was launched on this day, January 10, at the Newport News shipyard, Virginia.

The 332-meter-long, nuclear-powered ship was laid down on May 19, 2003 and launched on October 9, 2006 with Dorothy W.B. Koch, daughter of President Bush, as the sponsor.

USS George H.W. Bush reaches speeds in excess of 30 knots and is armed with two RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) and threePhalanx Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS). She can carry over 75 aircraft.

George H.W. Bush, with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 embarked, made her maiden deployment during a voyage to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Arabian Gulf (15 May-10 December 2001). Rear Adm. Nora W. Tyson, Commander Carrier Strike Group 2, broke her flag in George H.W. Bush.

The carrier sailed in company with guided missile cruisers Anzio (CG-68) and Gettysburg (CG-64), and guided missile destroyers Mitscher (DDG-57) and Truxtun (DDG-103). She accomplished maritime security operations and supported theater security cooperation efforts.

The ship tested the carrier suitability of a Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 for Ospreys to carry out COD flights, and a Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14 for mine sweeping, while off the Virginia capes in late January 2012.

George H.W. Bush launched a Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstration (UCAS-D), designated No. 502, while steaming in the Atlantic on the morning of 14 May 2013. On 17 May, 502 performed touch-and-go landings on board the ship. The demonstrator flew from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and landed on board George H.W. Bush on 10 July.

The drone made a second successful landing, but (apparently) diverted to Wallops Island Flight Facility, Va., during a third attempt, and suffered technical problems that also compelled the planners to cancel a fourth landing. These actions marked the first time that a UCAS-D accomplished these operations with a carrier at sea.

During her most recent deployment in 2014, GHWB launched 12,774 sorties amounting to 34,831 flight hours. 3,245 of these sorties were for combat which amounted to 18,133 combat flight hours. In total there were 10,003 catapult launches.

In August 2016, the aircraft carrier began flight operations after she spent 13 months undergoing a planned incremental availability (PIA) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. PIA was completed in June 2016 while the sailors completed their composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on December 21.

USS George H.W. Bush is scheduled to deploy early this year.

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