The USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier, CVN 77, is the tenth and final ship of the Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The CVN 77 programme was authorised in 1999 and Northrop Grumman Newport News was awarded the prime contract for construction of CVN 77 in January 2001.
The Nimitz Class ships are among the biggest and most powerful ships ever built. The tenth Nimitz Class carrier was officially named George HW Bush at a ceremony at the Pentagon in December 2002. George HW Bush aircraft carrier was delivered to the US Navy in May 2009.
In February 2019, General Dynamics NASSCO secured a $91.5m contract for providing dry-docking and maintenance of George HW Bush for two years. In August 2020, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) undocked the CVN 77 ship as part of drydocking planned incremental availability (DPIA).
USS George HW Bush construction
The keel-laying ceremony took place at the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia in September 2003. The christening ceremony took place in October 2006 and the vessel was commissioned in January 2009, prior to the completion of acceptance sea trials in April 2009. Improvements incorporated in the new carrier include a new radar tower, navigation and communication systems upgrades, transparent armoured windows, upgraded aircraft launch and recovery equipment and a new fuel system for improved storage and handling of aircraft fuel.
The carrier was built using a modular construction of 161 super-lift sections. The super-lift sections are sequentially hoisted and lowered into the dry dock using a 900t crane.
CVN 77 USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier design
The George HW Bush has the same new bulbous bow design that was used in the CVN 76 USS Ronald Reagan, commissioned in 2003. The bulbous bow reduces drag providing improved
buoyancy to the forward end of the ship and improved hull efficiency. Other new design features include new propellers and new marine sewage system. The controls on the carrier’s bridge and propulsion plant are automated.
Safety features include areas of 6.4cm-thick Kevlar panels over sections of the hull. Other safety and damage control measures include box protection structures over the magazines and machinery spaces, and also full and empty compartments are located at the sides of the ship.
The overall length of the CVN 77 is 332.9m and it has a full load displacement of 102,000t with stores, ammunition, fuel and water. The ship carries a crew of over 6,000. There are 3,200 crew with 160 officers and 2,500 aircrew. The ship also accommodates the carrier battle group’s flag officer and about 70 flag crew.
George HW Bush aircraft
The carrier carries typically up to 56 fixed-wing aircraft including the Hornet, F/A-18A,C,E and F, the Grumman EA-6B Prowler and the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, and up to 15 helicopters, Sikorsky SH-60F, HH-60H Seahawk and SH-60B Seahawks.
The flight deck is 332.9m long and 76.8m wide. The angle flight deck is 76.8m long. The angled flight deck allows the landing aircraft the option of accelerating safely away if required, minimising the danger of colliding with stationary aircraft on deck.
The carrier can launch aircraft at a rate of one every 20 seconds. The deck has four C13-2 steam catapults and three mk7 mod 3-type arrester wires.
The carrier has four deck edge elevators. The deck edge elevators allow large aircraft to project over the side of the ship. Two starboard lifts are forward of the island and one is to the aft of the island, and the port lift is also aft of the island towards the stern. The hangar deck, (7.8m high) has capacity for up to about 30 aircraft, depending on the composition of air wing. The ship carries 8,500t of aviation fuel.
Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems at Moorestown, New Jersey was selected as the CVN 77 warfare systems integrator in January 2000. The warfare systems include sensors, communications systems, aircraft control systems, armament and other electronics systems on the ship.
The CVN 77’s combat data systems are based on the advanced combat direction system (ACDS) with communications Links 4A, 11, and 16. Weapons control is managed by three mk91 mod 1 MFCS directors for the Sea Sparrow missile.
The ship is armed with two or three Raytheon GMLS mk29 octuple missile launchers for the Nato Sea Sparrow or Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and two mk49 guided-missile launch system mk49 for the RIM-116 rolling airframe missile (RAM). The aircraft carrier is also fitted with four 20mm Phalanx CIWSs (close-in weapon system).
The air search radars include ITT SPS-48E three-dimensional radar operating at E/F band, Raytheon SPS-49(V)5 operating at C/D band, and Raytheon mk23 TAS operating at D band. The ship’s surface search radar is the Northrop Grumman Norden Systems SPS-67V, operating at G band.
The ship is fitted with a Raytheon SLQ-32(V)4 interception and jamming electronic support and countermeasures system and a Nixie SLQ-25 towed decoy and signal generator set.
The ship is powered by which is generated by the two General Electric (originally Westinghouse) nuclear pressurised water reactors type PWR A4W/A1G.
The steam drives four turbines generating a total of 209MW, which drive four shafts. Four standby 8MW diesel engines are installed for emergency power.