BREMERTON — The USS Nimitz steamed out of Sinclair Inlet Saturday on its first voyage following months of work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The aircraft carrier, which returned to Bremerton in March after a record-setting 11-month-long deployment, now begins the work at sea preparing for the next one.
The 3,000-strong crew of the 1,092-foot-long warship completed a “fast cruise” Wednesday that included simulations and equipment tests that help “refresh and train Sailors for underway periods,” the Navy said.
It’s the culmination of 330,000 man-days of work at the shipyard, which included laser alignments on the ship’s aircraft-launching catapults and inspections of around 60,000 tubes on the carrier’s main engines. Nimitz Capt. Craig C. Sicola praised his sailors and the workforce at the shipyard for their teamwork “to get the job done safely and on time,” he said in a statement to the Kitsap Sun.
“Since taking command of the Nimitz, I have been astounded by the amount of effort and motivation shown by everyone involved and it’s because of their hard work that we are able to return to sea and operate forward,” said Sicola, a veteran aviator who took command of the ship in July.
The 100,000-ton warship made global headlines on a deployment that was the first among aircraft carriers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one that followed an outbreak on board its sister carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The warship fighter jets flew sorties against the Islamic State in the Middle East, trained in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, and maintained a “bubble,” to ensure the virus that causes COVID-19 could not infect the crew.
The 1975-commissioned Nimitz, the oldest of the country’s 11 active aircraft carriers, is one of two homeported in Bremerton. The USS Theodore Roosevelt, emblazoned with its red, white and blue-lit 71 hull number, is in dry dock at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an overhaul.
The Nimitz, No. 68 of the nation’s carrier fleet, is named for Chester Nimitz, the legendary fleet admiral who helped the U.S. defeat the Japanese Navy in World War II. It’s likely to embark in a few months on one of its last deployments, as the Navy is calling for its retirement in 2025. But there has been some discussion in the Navy of temporarily extending its service life.
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military and Bremerton for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, [email protected] or on Twitter at @joshfarley.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Nimitz sets sail Saturday on first voyage following shipyard work