from Wired Magazine
by Kathertine Kornri
F/A-18C Hornets assigned to the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 fly in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Official US Navy Photo
AIRCRAFT CARRIERS ARE complicated. They’re floating cities and mobile airbases, housing thousands of sailors and airmen, tens of aircraft, multiple nuclear reactors, and their own hospitals, barbershops, chapels, and zip codes. Carriers support defense and humanitarian efforts worldwide and can travel upwards of 100,000 nautical miles each year. Each United States aircraft carrier—there are 10 in active service—is designed to last 50 years. But the only way they get there is with a massive remodeling effort conducted once in the middle of its lifespan to update its technology and infrastructure.
Because “remodeling” is a term more often applied to home kitchens and bathrooms, the multi-year, multi-billion dollar process of modernizing the ship and readying it for at least two more decades of service is called Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH).
US Navy sailors and shipyard workers work together to update, clean, and restore nearly every square foot of a carrier: They refuel the nuclear reactors, overhaul living spaces, replace catapult systems used to launch aircraft, and repaint the hull, among other things.
In 2013, the ship was placed in drydock in Newport News, Virginia, the same shipyard that laid down its keel in 1984. “We have dozens of shipbuilders that worked on Lincoln during new construction 25 years ago who are working on the RCOH. These shipbuilders have a level of expertise and a bond with the ship that you cannot find anywhere else in the world,” says Bruce Easterson, construction director of Newport News Shipbuilding.”‘
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