Anchor Away: USS George Washington Gets a 32-Ton Gift from the Big E

The final piece of the new main mast of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) is installed at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, March 15, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy HHI/Matt Hildreth)
The final piece of the new main mast of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) is installed at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, March 15, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy HHI/Matt Hildreth)

The former USS Enterprise was decommissioned in 2017, yet it will serve the nation for years to come -- piece by piece.

Hundreds of parts from the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier have been removed for use on other ships, from catapult components to motor fans. Newport News Shipbuilding recently announced the latest example, and you can't miss it.

The 32-ton starboard anchor on Big E has been refurbished and installed on the USS George Washington. It will help hold the GW in place for the next 25 years.

Shipyard inspectors working on GW's mid-life overhaul found one of its anchors needed replacing. Rather than manufacture a new one, the Enterprise came to the rescue.

RelatedUSS Enterprise Is Officially Deactivated, but Will Stick Around

The move saved a significant amount of money -- an estimate wasn't available Friday -- but equally important was the reduction in time, said Chris Miner, a shipyard vice president.

"It was a huge win for us to be able to use 65's anchor," he said, referring to Enterprise's designation as CVN-65.

The Enterprise was built in the late 1950s and commissioned in 1961. It served the nation from the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way, it plucked astronaut John Glenn from the water after he orbited the Earth and led airstrikes into Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11.

Its final combat deployment took place in 2012.

The next year, it was towed from Norfolk to the Newport News shipyard for decommissioning. The Navy is still weighing options to dispose of the ship.

The Enterprise commands a loyal following in the U.S. naval community. Its use of nuclear power made it a trailblazer, and its unique configuration of eight reactors made it one of a kind. The Enterprise was the only ship of its class, different from the Nimitz-class carriers that sail today or the new Gerald R. Ford-class carriers that represent the next generation. Nimitz and Ford ships are powered by two reactors.

Using so many parts from Enterprise "has been a good success story, considering she is one of a kind," Miner said.

The ship's other anchor has already been pulled. It's now part of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Some 30,000 pounds of steel from the Big E has been recycled for use in the "new" Enterprise, also known as CVN-80. It will be the third carrier of the Ford class and is currently under construction at the Newport News yard.

Portions of the Big E's catapults and arresting gear are used on other Nimitz-class carriers, Miner said. They've even refurbished smaller parts, such as fan motors, and stored them away for future use.

Although the ship sailed for half a century, these are not vintage 1961 parts. The Enterprise was modernized over time.

"When she retired, there were still parts that had a lot of life in them," Miner said.

The anchor is an exception. While refurbished, it was built in 1957 and served the ship until the decommissioning.

Jim Voorhies chairs the USS Enterprise Association, which will hold a reunion later this month in Georgia. For him and other former crew members, it's gratifying to know that parts of their beloved ship will live on.

"We're excited about that," he said. "Anything that we can point to, the old vets, we all appreciate that."

Voorhies stepped onto the Enterprise in 1983 as a 22-year-old sailor. As a reactor officer, those eight reactors were his stomping ground. "We know that not everything can be salvaged," he said. "But whatever can, we'd appreciate it."

Will more parts of Enterprise be salvaged? Miner isn't ruling it out. When a current aircraft carrier undergoes a mid-life overhaul, like the George Washington is now, shipbuilders can often find unexpected problems, like that anchor.

So it might be useful if the Enterprise sticks around for a while.

"She's continuing to give even though her service life is over," Miner said. "The shipbuilders are extremely proud of that."

This article is written by Hugh Lessig from Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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