CVN 70 Carl Vinson’s Mid-Life RCOH Refueling & Maintenance
Osama Bin Shot, Osama Bin Buried. (May 3/11)
In November 2005, Northrop Grumman Newport News in Newport News, VA was awarded a $1.94 billion cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for accomplishment of the FY 2006 mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the Nimitz Class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70]. The ship was commissioned in 1982, and this effort shall provide for the accomplishment of the overhaul, alterations, repair, maintenance, and refueling of CVN 70 and its nuclear reactor plants to ensure continued safe operation of the ship. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Carl Vinson is scheduled to remain in service until 2032.
It’s interesting to note that the US DoD comptroller’s FY 2007 “Program Acquisition Costs by Weapon System” document lists split-funding of the CVN 70 RCOH over FY 2006-2007, with a total cost of $2.89 billion. So, how does this $1 billion discrepancy resolve itself? What about all those contracts before FY 2006? And how did the program go, now that the USS Carl Vinson has returned to the fleet at last?
The RCOH and the Damage Done
During an American Nimitz Class carrier’s 50 year life span, it has 4 Drydocking Planned Incremental Availabilities and 12 Planned incremental availabilities. It has only one Refueling and Complex OverHaul, however, which is the most significant overhaul the ship receives during its 50-year life span. After nearly 25 years of service, the USA’s current nuclear aircraft carriers must undergo a 3-year maintenance period to refuel their nuclear reactors, upgrade and modernize combat and communication systems, and overhaul the ship’s hull, mechanical and electrical systems.
NAVSEA’s official cost figure for the CVN 70’s entire RCOH is $3.1 billion. As of April 2007, they told DID that the program was on budget, and releases marking the ship’s re-delivery make the same claim for the now-complete program.
In addition to the years of advance procurement, advance planning, and then installation work conducted by Northrop Grumman and the government, the other billion dollars or so is used for the development, procurement and installation of Government Furnished Equipment and Government Furnished Information. Examples of major systems that will be developed or procured for the USS Carl Vinson include new communications systems, new navigation systems, radar replacements or refurbishments, new ship self defense missile systems, new oxygen and nitrogen generating systems, modifications to air conditioning plants, new catapult control systems, new environment oil pollution control system and upgrades to aviation landing and recovery systems.
Note, also, that the cost of the replacement nuclear power units is not covered under the Newport News contracts. The power units used to refuel a CVN during RCOH cost about $510 million in FY 2007 dollars.
Hence $1.94 billion in contracts to Northrop Grumman’s Newport News, within a $2.89 billion split-year appropriation over FY 2006-2007, and other contracts as well to bring it to $3.1 billion overall.
The new CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class will have a redesigned nuclear power plant that’s expected to make use of advances from the USA’s Seawolf and Virginia Class submarine reactors, in order to eliminate expensive reactor refueling entirely. It will also have more modular, “open architecture” computer systems that will simplify modernization of the ship’s combat and communication systems. These changes are expected to significantly lower RCOH time and costs for the new carrier class, and allow many electronics upgrades to take place in earlier phases.
USS Carl Vinson RCOH: Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC.
May 2/11: Osama Bin Shot, Osama Bin Buried. Less than a day after a SEAL team raid into a fortified compound in Abbotabad, 40 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the body of Osama Bin Laden is buried at sea, from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson. San Diego Examiner.
Dec 4/09: Northrop Grumman Corporation re-delivers USS Carl Vinson to the U.S. Navy, after the ship successfully completes sea trials, 2 days ahead of schedule. The redelivery follows the completion of modernization, maintenance, and guarantee work accomplished during the ship’s post shakedown availability (PSA) and selected restricted availability (SRA), 2 stages that generally follow the RCOH. Northrop Grumman release.
July 31/09: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70] is returning to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, VA for $50 million worth of post-RCOH maintenance work via a modification to a previously awarded contract (N62793-03-G-0001). Northrop Grumman expects to complete the work by December 2009, and $30.7 million in contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/09. The Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair in Newport News, VA manages the contract. See also Northrop Grumman release.
July 11/09: USS Carl Vinson is re-delivered to the US Navy, and accepted back into active service, marking the formal completion of its $3.1 billion, 20+ million man-hour RCOH process. The ship is now working towards a flight deck re-certification.
USS Carl Vinson is the 3rd Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to complete RCOH at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News. USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN 71] will begin her RCOH later in summer 2009, advance Planning is currently underway for the USS Abraham Lincoln’s [CVN 72] RCOH. US Navy release | NGC release.
July 1/09: USS Carl Vinson completes initial sea trials, the last stage of the RCOH process. The carrier, which departed on June 28/09, returned to Naval Station Norfolk flying the traditional broom on its mast to signify a sweep of all trials.
The RCOH project was performed by the company’s Shipbuilding sector in Newport News, VA, and is projected to complete within budget. The ship is scheduled to be delivered to the U. S. Navy next week. NGC release.
Oct 28/08: Northrop Grumman announces a $2.1 million contract from U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). NGC’s Sperry Marine business unit will upgrade the steering control systems for USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70] – but not as part of the RCOH.
Sperry Marine will replace the steering units and helm control console on the bridge and install new electronics and software, during the ship’s first scheduled maintenance period following its RCOH. The contract also provides for engineering support and documentation.
May 9/07: Northrop Grumman Corporation completes the dry dock portion of work for the USS Carl Vinson 5 days ahead of schedule. Tugboats moved the ship from dry dock to a new multi-level shipyard pier where it will undergo final outfitting and testing. This is approximately the half-way point of the RCOH.
Work accomplished while the ship was in dry dock includes removing, refurbishing and reinstalling the propellers, propeller shafts and rudders; painting the carrier’s massive hull and replacing thousands of valves, pumps, and piping components. Shipbuilders also removed the top two levels of the island and mast and replaced it with a reconfigured island structure and new mast to provide enhanced capability.
So, what work remains between now and redelivery to the Navy in 2009? Installation and testing of updated combat and electronic systems; overhaul and energization of electrical distribution systems; overhaul, repair, and testing of propulsion plant systems; habitability upgrades and modernization; crew move-aboard; and installation and testing of aircraft launch and recovery equipment. See Northrop Grumman Newport News release.
March 30/07: U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, issues a release re: the US Navy’s announcement that USS Carl Vinson will shift its home port to San Diego once it re-enters service. According to Rep. Hunter’s release, San Diego was selected on the basis of several factors, including existing infrastructure, family support facilities, and proximity to training areas. The carrier will join its fellows USS Nimitz [CVN 68] and USS Ronald Reagan [CVN 76].
Jan 7/07: Workers finish installing Carl Vinson’s 4 new propellers (“screws”) at Northrop Grumman Newport News. The installation marks the achievement of a milestone in the work outside the ship’s hull, preparing her for undocking from the shipyard’s Drydock 11 to Pier 3 later in 2007. See US Navy release.
The screws are close to 21 feet in diameter and weigh about 65,000 pounds each. They are very similar in size, weight, and material to the propellers on previous ships of the Nimitz Class, but the blades are shaped differently to reduce wear and erosion. The propellers have been outfitted with a protective covering that will be removed later in the construction process. The new propellers are also planned for use on the future-generation CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class carriers, and were recently installed on the last Nimitz Class carrier George H. W. Bush [CVN 77].
Dec 29/06: AMSEC LLC in Virginia Beach, VA received a $10.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for program management, material procurement, and installation of shipboard equipment for the USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70]. This effort supports work performed under the previous contract for Phase I: Planning and developing processes, procedures, preliminary Plan of Action & Milestones (POA&M), and timelines for the accomplishment of re-outfitting of Vinson. This effort also supports Phase II: Program Management, to include material/ equipment procurement from Phase I and final installation on board the ship.
Work will be performed in Newport News, VA and is expected to be complete by May 2009. This contract was not competitively procured by the Supervisor of Shipbuilding Conversion and Repair in Newport News, VA (N62793-07-C-A022).
Nov 29/05: Northrop Grumman Newport News in Newport News, VA is awarded a $1.94 billion cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the FY 2006 mid-life refueling and complex overhaul of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Work on Northrop Grumman’s portion of the RCOH effort will be performed in Newport News, VA and is expected to be complete by March 2009, as detailed further in this Northrop Grumman release. Funding is provided and work is authorized in accordance with Public Law 109-77 and Public Law 109-104. The contract was not competitively procured (N00024-06-C-2115).
Dec 13/04: Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Newport News, VA received a $215.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-01-C-2103) for FY 2005 advanced planning and material procurement for the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of the USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70]. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA (99%) and Puget Sound, WA (1%), and is expected to be complete by November 2005.
Feb 6/04: Northrup Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Newport News, VA received a $139.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-01-C-2103, for fiscal 2004 advanced planning and material procurement for the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70]. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA (99%), and Puget Sound, WA (1%), and is expected to be complete by November 2004.
Dec 11/02: Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Newport News, VA received a $143 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification for FY 2003 advanced planning and material procurement for the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70]. Work will be performed at Newport News, VA (97%) and Puget Sound, WA (3%), and is to be complete by November 2003. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-01-C-2103).
March 29/02: Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Newport News, VA received a $42.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-01-C-2103, a May 15/01 cost-plus-fixed-fee $9.3 million contract for advanced planning and engineering services for “future aircraft carrier availabilities.”
Under this modification, they will perform advanced planning, design, documentation, engineering, procurement, ship checks, fabrication and preliminary shipyard work in order to prepare and make ready for alterations, repairs, maintenance and routine work on the USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70], and its reactors. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA (98%) and Puget Sound, WA (2%), and is to be complete by November 2002. This contract was not competitively procured.
Additional Readings and Sources
Many thanks to US NAVSEA for working with DID to clarify key figures.