With the returns from deployment of the carrier DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER on Dec. 19, and the amphibious ships IWO JIMA and NEW YORK on Dec. 20, the piers at Norfolk’s naval base are about as full up as they’ll ever be.
Five aircraft carriers, four big-deck amphibious assault ships, a full cast of “small boy” surface warships, along with nuclear submarines and support ships, are crowding the base, giving a comfortably snug feeling to the waterfront. Similar scenes — although not with the gathering of flattops seen here — are taking place at other fleet concentration areas like San Diego and Pearl Harbor.
The Navy makes a point of trying to gives its shipboard crews a chance to spend Christmas with their families, and for a few days the percentage of ships underway drops to the lowest point it will be all year. But many of these ships will be gone in two weeks as the pace of operations picks up again.
In a decade or so, scenes such as this at Norfolk could become quite rare, as the fleet is in the midst of a gradual shift from the Atlantic to Pacific. Within a few years, about sixty percent of the U.S. Navy’s ships will be homeported at a Pacific base – virtually a mirror image of the Cold War emphasis on the Atlantic.
Aerial photos courtesy the U.S. Navy, by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan J. Courtade, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott, and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg.
From bottom to top, front to back, or left to right:
Aircraft carrier DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69)
Aircraft carrier GEORGE H. W. BUSH (CVN 77)
Aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE (CVN 65)
Amphibious assault ship BATAAN (LHD 5)
Aircraft carrier ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72)
Aircraft carrier HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75)
Amphibious assault ship WASP (LHD 1)
Amphibious assault ship KEARSARGE (LHD 3)
Amphibious landing platform dock NEW YORK (LPD 21)
A T-AKE dry cargo ammunition ship
Amphibious assault ship IWO JIMA (LHD 7)
and various cruisers, destroyers, frigates and submarines of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
Also across Hampton Roads but not in these photos are two other carriers at Newport News Shipbuilding: THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71), now finishing up a three-and-a-half-year refueling overhaul, and the new GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78), first ship of a new class of carriers, that will launch in mid-2013.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER’s deployment to the Persian Gulf region was extended recently when her replacement, the Pacific carrier NIMITZ, needed to undergo emergency repairs. IKE is home for about two months to have her flight deck resurfaced, then will return to Central Command’s Fifth Fleet.
ENTERPRISE returned from her final deployment on Nov. 4, and began her deactivation process on Dec. 1. She will eventually move to Newport News for further dismantling.
Sheds cover the ABRAHAM LINCOLN’s flight deck as she prepares to cross to Newport News early next year to begin a three-and-a-half-year refueling overhaul, the most comprehensive refit a carrier will undergo in its 50-year service life.
HARRY S. TRUMAN has completed most of her training and is expected to deploy to the Fifth Fleet region later this winter. GEORGE H. W. BUSH completed a major overhaul in early December and is in the early stages of deployment work ups.
All four of the Atlantic Fleet’s big-deck amphibs are in the pictures — an event perhaps even rarer than a gathering of five carriers.
The WASP is in port after supporting Hurricane Sandy relief operations off New York and New Jersey in early November. KEARSARGE is seen in the act of berthing, with several tugs around her, returning from rudder repairs at BAE Systems’ shipyard in Norfolk. BATAAN will begin her workups for a deployment in 2013, and the IWO JIMA, along with the NEW YORK, returned to Norfolk hours before these pics were taken, back from a nearly nine-month deployment to the Fifth Fleet and Mediterranean theaters.