A couple of weeks ago, the USS George Washington was tabbed by “sources” as the carrier slated to shift to Japan when the USS Kitty Hawk is retired, but the Navy denied that any decision had been made. Japanese media put their money on the George H.W. Bush, still under construction. Today the Navy announced that a decision had been made, and that they decided the Washington was it.
There had been talk of basing the forward-deployed carrier at Guam instead of Japan, mostly because the Japanese have been opposed to having a nuclear-powered ship based on their territory. The Kitty Hawk and the John F Kennedy are the last two conventionally-powered carriers in the US Navy. The JFK will be retired next year now that an expensive 15-month overhaul has been cancelled, leaving only nuclear flat-tops in the fleet after 2008. Mostly, though, the Guam talk was about an additional forward-based carrier, not a move back from Japan. Hawaii is also an option for an additional carrier closer to potential Pacific action.
Recently, protesters did their thing in Japan over the decision to allow nuclear ships to be home-ported in Japan. The city council of Yokosuka, the port city, also voted unanimously to reject the Japanese national government’s decision.
Meanwhile, Japan’s 54th nuclear power plant is about to go online. Japan gets 30 percent of its power from nuclear plants.
Last week, a short announcement about “suspending the operation of the nuclear reactor while docking” the carrier was made. The Navy noted that it meant “while docked” and that it was standard procedure.
Carrier Air Wing Five will remain the forward-based air wing after the Kitty Hawk retires.
Have I mentioned that I don’t think 11 carriers are enough?
—cross-posted to Winds of Change