Construction of USS George Washington
The sheer might of an aircraft carrier is awesome, so it should come as no surprise that the construction effort to build one of these behemoth warships is equally awe inspiring. Made of steel, these vessels take approximately 40 million man hours and six years to build.
The contract to build USS George Washington, the sixth of the Nimitz class carriers, was signed by Newport News Shipbuilding on December 27, 1982, but it was another four more years before the keel was laid and the actual construction began, with a promised delivery date of 1992.
While the basics mission of an aircraft carrier has not changed much in the last 50 years, the construction process had changed dramatically, due to advances in technology. Today's carriers are floating airports, which rely heavily on sophisticated electronic equipment. This presents a challenge to shipbuilders to not only construct more sophisticated ships, but to do it faster and better.
This is where over 28,000 employees at NNS come in. They used some of the most advanced tools and computers systems in the world today to coordinate millions of project-related details, including complete ships drawings, plan revisions, product specifications, work schedules, and purchasing and accounting records.
These photographs show GW at different stages in her construction. For Sailors who live on board, it is hard to believe that the rooms they work and sleep in once resembled fallout shelters, but as with anything powerful, it had to start somewhere.
In this case, it all began on a computer screen and not a drawing board. The design information was sent via computer to program to pipe, sheet metal and machine shop equipment. Upon command, these machines manufacture an exact number of perfectly shaped ship pieces every time. This is essential, as all cuts and bents must be precise to meet design specifications. Several of the larger modules, such as the upper bow and island, are pre-outfitted and arrive on scene ready to be installed with the help of a gigantic gantry crane.
These are all vital improvements, considering the taxpayers paid $3.5 billion to transform GW from a computer blue print into a full-fledged warship capable of delivering air power anywhere in the world in less than 72 months. And just as promised, in the summer of 1992, the vision of USS George Washington's designers had been brought to fruition by NNS.