WASHINGTON — Three U.S. aircraft carriers will begin shifting home ports, ostensibly for routine maintenance and refueling, but with the end game of having the most modern vessels ready in the Pacific Ocean.
The carriers involved are USS Carl Vinson, USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis.
The changes in home ports will mean that, in some cases, almost entire crews will swap ships — a move designed to minimize costly and disruptive transferring of crew members and families across the country. That also will save the Pentagon roughly $40 million in transfer costs, Pentagon officials said.
It also means that the ships in the Pacific will be fully crewed and able to sail without any disruptions.
“We are sending one of our most advanced carriers to join our forward deployed forces in Japan to support the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander, Naval Air Forces, said in a statement to the media.
The rising militarization by China of islands in the South China and East China seas, the desire to improve ties with India, and uncertainly about future actions by North Korea help elevate the Indo-Pacific command to a priority status.
The Lincoln, commissioned in 1989, is now based in Norfolk, Va., and will be transferred to San Diego. It will pair with USS Theodore Roosevelt, another carrier nicknamed “the Big Stick,” which is now sailing in the Middle East.
The Stennis, commissioned in 1995, will move from Bremerton, Wash., to Norfolk. It will join the carrier USS George Washington.
The Vinson, commissioned in 1982, will move from San Diego to Bremerton, Washington. At that port it will pair with the Navy’s oldest-serving carrier, USS Nimitz.
The Vinson has one of the highest profile’s of U.S. carriers. Its recent three-month assignment in the western Pacific included a first-ever stop in Vietnam of a U.S. carrier since the war ended, participation in the just-concluded Rim of the Pacific exercises off Hawaii, conducting rescues of marooned civilian sailors and being poised to sail through the Strait of Taiwan.
Carriers must shift to the East coast during their lifespan since the Newport News shipyard in Virginia is the only U.S. shipyard that builds, refuels and maintains the nuclear-powered carriers.
The Navy did not announce the date the changes would begin. It said in its statement that, as designed, the changes will permit about two-thirds of each vessel’s crew to remain at their current home base.