Finally, USS Lincoln Coming To Newport News Shipyard

The USS Abraham Lincoln will soon be towed to Newport News Shipbuilding for its midlife overhaul after the carrier was in Norfolk for more than a month as Congress struggled to find money to start the project.

A Wednesday news release issued by Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet said mentioned in passing that the aircraft carrier is “scheduled to move to Huntington Ingalls (Industries)’ Newport News Shipyard March 28 (Thursday), for the majority of its RCOH,” an acronym for the ship’s refueling and complex overhaul.

That date is tentative because of expected heavy winds.

Late Wednesday, a news release from the Naval Sea Systems Command explained that the tow the massive ship is being paid for with money provided to the shipyard in February for advance planning relating to the overhaul. The release states that the Navy expects to sign a contract with the shipyard for the overhaul “in the near future.”

The Daily Press also obtained an email shipyard president Matt Mulherin sent employees that confirmed the scheduled arrival.

“The USS Abraham Lincoln [CVN 72] is scheduled to arrive in Dry Dock 11 tomorrow morning [weather permitting] to begin its refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH). The ship was originally scheduled to arrive last month, but was postponed because of the uncertainty around the defense budget and funding of the work, he wrote.

“Congress approved legislation last week that will avert a partial government shutdown and provide funding to federal agencies through September 30, the end of the government’s 2013 fiscal year,” the email continued. “The bill provides more than $3 billion for our aircraft carrier work, including the Lincoln RCOH, completing the USS Theodore Roosevelt RCOH, the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) inactivation, and the start of construction for John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).”

The overhaul is a multi-billion, four-year project that requires extensive planning and takes more than 20 million man hours. According to an info graphic, the work is “equivalent to building the Golden Gate Bridge, twice!”

“USS Abraham Lincoln will benefit from the experience gained by the Navy and the shipyard from four previous RCOHs,” said Capt. Frank Simei, the Navy’s program manager for in-service aircraft carriers.

“Refueling, repairing, and modernizing a Nimitz-class carrier gives the Navy a fully mission ready aircraft carrier ready for two and a half more decades of service on the front line,” he said.

The Lincoln’s overhaul is scheduled to be finished in November 2016.

Claude “Wayne” De Berry, a pipefitter at the shipyard, described the extensive amount of preparation that’s already been done to ready Dry Dock 11 for the Lincoln.

“They renovated the dock, put in new keel blocks, installed new piping and new steel supports, painted it and everything,” De Berry said.

“The water’s already in the dock,” he said, “and the departments assigned to work on the project are on standby.”

The development comes after the House and Senate both passed a measure that secured funding for RCOH construction contract. Shipyard workers had been doing work to prepare the Lincoln for the overhaul at Naval Station Norfolk under a pre-construction contract, but Huntington Ingalls CEO and president Mike Petters had said that work-around was relatively inefficient and would drive up the overall cost of the project.

President Barack Obama signed the spending bill Tuesday, which provides money for various government operations through the rest of fiscal year 2013.

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