The Pentagon wants $678 million to refuel a single aircraft carrier
The budget includes a request for $678 million for the refueling of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier. This particular funding request was not in the Pentagon's proposed budget for the previous fiscal year but was included after being added in by Congress.
The refueling of the USS George Washington is such a costly undertaking because the aircraft carrier is powered by two A4W nuclear reactors. These two reactors, according to The Encyclopedia of Ships, power four propellers which produce a maximum speed of 30 knots. Each reactor produce approximately 550 megawatts of power.
The reactors aboard the George Washington contain enough nuclear fuel to fully power the ship and all of its onboard needs for approximately 20 years. First commissioned in 1992, the aircraft carrier is close to nearing the middle of its service life and is in need of an over $600 million refueling. So even if the refill is costly, it only needs to be done once every couple of decades or so.
The refueling of the USS George Washington coincides with an overhaul of the ship that could take as long as four years. Together with the refueling, it will prove to be a multi-billion dollar exercise.
"There is extra effort that goes into preparing George Washington for the overhaul," Timothy Kuehhas, the captain of the USS George Washington, told Stars and Stripes.
The USS George Washington is one of 11 aircraft carriers in service within the US military. The Navy has defended its need for the 11 carriers on the grounds that a large fleet size allows crew members to have adequate rests at home while also enabling the US to project its air and naval power around the globe.