Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), achieved a milestone in the refuelling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) aircraft carrier.

Completing the main mast installation, marked by a time-honoured mast-stepping ceremony, brings the ship closer to its revitalization, making it the fleet’s most modern and technologically advanced Nimitz-class carrier.

The RCOH process, performed only once in the aircraft carrier’s 50-year lifetime, encompasses upgrades and repairs to ensure the vessel’s continued role in the nation’s defence for the next quarter-century.

Capt. J. Patrick Thompson III, the ship’s commanding officer, expressed his pride in the team’s progress during this critical RCOH period. “It’s always great making significant progress and checking off major accomplishments during this RCOH period – today is yet another triumph by this team.”

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The achievement follows a milestone earlier this spring when the shipyard installed the USS John C. Stennis’ new main mast. The main mast’s installation, conducted using a new 315-ton crane, raised the carrier’s distinctive profile an impressive 123 feet above the flight deck. This marks the first RCOH in which the mast was installed all in one section.

In 2019, HII installed a main mast for the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington. Most recently, HII was awarded a $528m contract for nuclear-powered aircraft carrier maintenance in the San Diego area.

Rob Check, NNS vice president for in-service aircraft carrier programs, lauded the shipyard’s highly skilled workforce, “Our highly skilled shipbuilders are working with our Navy partners, our suppliers and numerous contractors to recapitalize this ship and deliver her back to the Navy for another 25 years of service.”

The RCOH process involves upgrades and modernization across nearly every space and system on the ship. From tanks, hull, and propulsion systems to electrical, combat, and aviation support systems, each aspect undergoes repair and improvement. The process also includes defuelling and refuelling the ship’s two nuclear reactors, ensuring the carrier’s continued operational efficiency and readiness.

The USS John C. Stennis is the seventh Nimitz-class carrier to undergo this transformative process. The aircraft carrier is ready to meet the challenges of the maritime landscape.

HII reported a 12.1% rise in revenues for the full year of 2022, with the company also predicting that its shipbuilding revenue will range from $8.4bn to $8.6bn in FY 2023.