USS George Washington destined for Japan to replace USS Ronald Reagan, report says
Stars and Stripes March 3, 2023
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The aircraft carrier USS George Washington is expected in two years to return to Japan, its base of operations until eight years ago when it was replaced by the USS Ronald Reagan, according to a Japanese news agency.
Preparations are underway to replace the Ronald Reagan, which operates from the 7th Fleet homeport at Yokosuka, Nikkei Asia said Wednesday in a report that cited U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Brian Cunningham. Additional details are not available until “proper coordination is complete,” the report said.
Cunningham acknowledged Stars and Stripes' request for information Friday but did not respond further that day. A 7th Fleet spokesman had referred questions to Pacific Fleet on Thursday.
The George Washington is expected in Yokosuka by 2025, Nikkei reported.
The aircraft carrier, commissioned in July 1992, is undergoing mid-life nuclear refueling and maintenance at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia; it was homeported at Yokosuka from 2008 to 2015.
The carrier’s refit began in 2017 and was expected to last four years but has been significantly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other setbacks.
Those improvements will permit the carrier to embark the MQ-25A Stingray, a 50-foot drone that can refuel other aircraft in flight and extend the carrier air wing’s range, Nikkei reported.
The Stingray can fly 500 nautical miles and deliver up to 16,000 pounds of fuel mid-air to F-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and F-35C Lightning IIs, according to its manufacturer Boeing’s website.
The drone is the world’s first “operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft” and a “critical part of the future” for carrier strike groups and air wings, according to U.S. Naval Air Systems Command.
The George Washington’s 2008 arrival in Yokosuka was preceded several months by more than 240 Navy families.
When the Ronald Reagan arrived to replace the George Washington in 2015, approximately two-thirds of the ships’ respective crews transferred between them.
The Ronald Reagan will have spent almost 10 years in Yokosuka by 2025, nearly the Navy limit for ships deployed overseas.
Congress set the 10-year limit in the fiscal 2019 Defense Department budget following the back-to-back collisions in 2017 of the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald, both based at Yokosuka more than a decade when they separately collided with commercial vessels.