Their Own Zip Codes
Complemented with two Westinghouse nuclear reactors, the range for the Nimitz-class carriers is virtually unlimited with a top speed of over 30 knots (35 mph). In fact, the ships nuclear propulsion systems can operation for 20 years without refueling. Electricity is supplied by eight steam turbine generators (enough to supply a city of around 100,000), and each ship is stocked with enough food and supplies for a crew of around 5,700 people for 90 days. To supply the aircraft aboard, each ship carries approximately 3 million gallons of aviation fuel. Comparable to a small-sized city, the Nimitz carriers have their own ZIP code, TV and radio stations, newspaper, fire department, chapels, library, hospital, general store, barbershops, and fitness center, among many other amenities.
The Nimitz-class carriers were constructed by the Newport News Shipbuilding Co. in Virginia and are named the USS Nimitz, after Adm. Chester M. Nimitz, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS Carl Vinson, USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Abraham Lincoln, USS George Washington, USS John C. Stennis, USS Harry S. Truman, USS Ronald Reagan, and the USS George H. W. Bush. Each is expected to have a service life of fifty years.
How much will each of the ten Supercarriers cost on average? According to the United States Government Accounting Office (GAO), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier cost about 58 percent more than a conventionally powered carrier. In their report, the average life-cycle costs in fiscal year 1997 dollars for the Nimitz carriers are as follows:
- Construction Costs - $4.5 billion
- Mid life overhaul Costs - $2.3 billion
- Operating and Support Costs - $14 billion
- Other Costs - $1 billion
- Total Average Cost - $22 billion each
The Next Generation
Currently on the drawing boards is the next generation of Supercarriers, the Ford class, named after President Gerald R. Ford. Being built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilders, there are three planned at an estimated $8 billion apiece for construction costs. Each will be incorporated with such technologies as a new electromagnetic catapult rather than the steam variety, more powerful nuclear reactors, newer intergraded radar and electronic warfare measures, and extensive use of automation to reduce crew requirements and costs. Completion of the first ship is scheduled for 2015.