NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Navy plans to homeport its newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Virginia when it joins the fleet in 2016, according to members of Virginia’s congressional delegation.
The decision to base the USS Gerald R. Ford in Norfolk will provide a temporary boost to the region’s economy. The USS Abraham Lincoln isn’t expected to return to the West Coast following its mid-life refueling and overhaul in nearby Newport News until 2018, according to a joint statement from Virginia’s senators and the Hampton Roads congressional delegation.
That means for about two years, the crews of six of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers will be based in Virginia instead of the usual five. All other U.S. aircraft carriers are based in California, Washington and Japan. The Navy has said it wants 60 percent of its ships based in the Pacific and sending the Lincoln to one of its homeports there would restore that balance.
Each aircraft carrier has a crew of several thousand sailors and contributes millions of dollars to the region’s economy.
“We are very glad to learn that the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will be home ported in Norfolk, home of the U.S. Navy,” Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim said in a statement issued by the region’s congressional delegation. “The long-standing defense policy of stationing five nuclear aircraft carriers in the Atlantic at Norfolk is also confirmed. … All and all a signature day for Norfolk and the Navy.”
The Navy has been down to 10 aircraft carriers since 2012, when the Norfolk-based USS Enterprise was inactivated. The Ford is the Navy’s numerical replacement for the Enterprise, although it is the lead ship in a new class of carriers.
The Ford features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults, improved weapons movement and an enhanced flight deck.
The statement also says the Navy has agreed to homeport four amphibious ships in Virginia Beach at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story through 2020.
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