When commissioned in 2009, the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) marked the last of theten-strong Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to enter service with the United States Navy (USN). The vessel was ordered on January 26th, 2001 and its construction headed by Northrop Grumman Newport News of Virginia. The keel was laid down on September 6th, 2003 and the carrier launched to sea on October 9th, 2006. She was formally commissioned on January 10th, 2009 and makes her homeport out of NS Norfolk in Virginia. She fights under the motto of "Freedom at Work" and carries the nickname of "Avenger". Her namesake is from George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.
As with the rest of the Nimitz-class vessels, Bush carries the traditional American carrier arrangement with a rear-set island superstructure fitted to the aft starboard side and a large surface area reserved for the flight deck. Four hangar elevators serve aircraft to the flight deck from below and the carrier showcases four steam catapults for launching. Retrieval of fixed-wing aircraft is by arrestor cables strewn across the angled receiving deck. The vessel can also support and sustain helicopter operations. The complete crew complement of the vessel reaches 5,680 personnel and includes 2,480 persons as part of the air wing.
Propulsion is by way of 2 x Westinghouse A4W series nuclear reactors giving the carrier essentially unlimited range. Each reactor carries a service life between 20 to 25 years before needing replacement/disposal. Her machinery also includes 4 x steam turbines that drive 4 x shafts while outputting 260,000 shaft horsepower. This is sufficient for reaching up to 30 knot speeds despite the size of the massive ship whose dimensions include a running length of 1,092 feet, a beam of 252 feet, and a draught of 37 feet.
USS George H.W. Bush features a combination air arm made up of multirole aircraft, special mission aircraft, and transports. This includes the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18 "Hornet" and "Super Hornet" types as well as Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) platforms. Search and Rescue (SAR) operations can involve her helicopter component and transport is charged to both rotary-wing and fixed-wing systems in USN service.
While generally defended by her accompanying fleet of warships and her air arm, the Bush features ranged and point-defense armament through 2 x Mk 29 Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers and 2 x RIM-116 Rolling Air Frame (RAM) short-range, surface-to-air missiles. Additionally, the RAM components can be supplanted by several 20mm Phalanx Gatling-style digitally-controlled cannons. Armor protection reaches up to 2.5" thick at her most critical facings.
The Nimitz-class is outfitted with a bevy of processing systems and sensor equipment lead by the SPS-48E 3D and SPS-49A(V)1 2D air search radar suites. The SPQ-9B serves fire control and a pair of SPN-46 and an SPN-43C system serve air traffic control. The SPN-41 acts as an aid for landing of inbound aircraft. Three Mk 91 NSSM systems serve in the guidance role while three Mk 95 radars are also in play. Electronic warfare is handled by the SLQ-32A(V)4 series countermeasures suite and torpedo decoys are provided through the SLQ-25A "Nixie" system.
Bush's first deployment occurred during May of 2011 where she sailed the Atlantic to undertake joint exercises with the British during "Saxon Warrior". From England, the vessel steamed to Naples, Italy where she arrived in June of 2011.In August, her air wing supported actions centering on Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) until she returned to Norfolk for December. Upgrades then followed beginning in July of 2012 and trials of these systems were underway for December. On May 14th, 2013, USS George H.W. Bush recorded the first catapult-assisted carrier take-off of a UAV when the in-development Northrop Grumman X-47B was launched from her bow catapult. An arrested landing was then recorded on July 10th of that same year - helping to progress the groundbreaking program.
In March of 2014, Bush was moved into Turkish waters to oversee developments in the Ukrainian Civil War which saw the eventual takeover of the Crimean Peninsula by Russian forces. Bush then made her way through the Suez Canal to join the 5th Fleet in Persian Gulf waters. From June onwards, she formed the naval contingent off the coast of Iraq as ISIS forces moved their way towards Baghdad. Airstrikes then followed in August into September while continuing during October. Targets in Syria were eventually added as the ISIS reach had gone well beyond Iraq.