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New Year Saw Rare Aircraft Carrier Deployment Gap

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By Debbie Gregory.

As the first month of 2017 draws to an end, we learned a very interesting fact.

For the first week of this year, for the first time since World War II, no U.S. aircraft carriers were deployed, anywhere, a Navy spokesman confirmed.

Had the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which had been in the Persian Gulf, delayed its return to its homeport of Norfolk, VA by a few days, this would not have been the case.

The unusual gap in carrier presence is due in part to longer-than-expected maintenance for the USS George H.W. Bush, which was supposed to take eight months, but ended up taking 13 months. The Navy blamed the delay on increased wear and tear that resulted from an extended deployment. If it had left when it was supposed to, instead of on January 21st, it would have relieved the Eisenhower in the Gulf.

The George H.W. Bush is the tenth and final Nimitz-class supercarrier of the United States Navy, named for the 41st President of the United States. Construction began in 2003at the Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard’s Dry Dock 12, the largest in the western hemisphere, and was completed in 2009 at a cost of $6.2 billion.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the absence of a carrier in the Gulf or the Pacific does not mean the U.S. is vulnerable.

The USS Carl Vinson is on routine deployment to the Western Pacific after having received some $300 million worth of improvements.

The USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship, is on deployment in the Middle East. The ship is smaller than an aircraft carrier and deploys with Marines, landing craft and helicopters.

“We have had a significant presence in both those areas and will continue to have a significant presence even though we may not at any one particular time have an aircraft carrier there,” Cook said.

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