Exploring Flight Operations on the USS “George Washington” Nuclear Aircraft Carrier

DEF recently visited the nuclear aircraft carrier USS “George Washington”, one of the most important warships of the United States. During its navigation, the carrier conducted an exercise with the Argentine Navy a few miles off the coast of Mar del Plata. It is worth noting that in April, the “Spirit of Freedom” – as the carrier is known in naval circles – departed from the Norfolk naval base in the United States towards Japan. Due to its large dimensions, the best route to reach its destination is through the South Atlantic.

On board this vessel, all types of aircraft, including the most modern ones from the United States, land and take off. Therefore, to ensure that nothing goes wrong, the men and women of the navy have precise missions that they must strictly follow. Any error, especially considering the power of the aircraft on board, can turn into a catastrophe. So, what happens on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier?

According to Rear Admiral Marcelo Dalle Nogare, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces, as the aircraft carrier sails, it carries out activities with the navies of different American states. These operations, which are carried out during the ship’s passage, are called «Passex» exercises. Since 2024 – and after more than a decade without doing so – Argentina exercised with the popular aircraft carrier, adding «Gringo-Gaucho II» to the name of the combined action between the forces of both countries.

During the days when Argentine and American sailors operated together, exercises were carried out in specific tactical maneuvers related to naval activities. It is of great importance to the Argentine Navy because it also strengthens knowledge about NATO procedures. Therefore, Argentina decided to participate with two destroyers, three OPVs, two corvettes, Sea King and Fennec helicopters, and a Tracker aircraft.

The aircraft carrier participated in the activities along with two other ships that accompanied it in navigation. These ships not only provide security (in case of attack) but also logistical support (such as the transfer of fuel and supplies).

During the DEF coverage, the team was able to speak with the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Marc Stanley, who referred to the activity that brought both navies together. He emphasized the importance of learning to work together and highlighted the significance of combined operations in deepening knowledge and experiences.

On board the ship, DEF had the opportunity to speak with Captain Jason Tarrant, the officer in charge of the flight deck. According to the U.S. Navy officer, the USS “George Washington” flight deck is where all flight operations take place and is compared to an active airstrip, but on a much larger scale.

The flight deck of the USS “George Washington” operates various aircraft, including the F-35C Lightning II, the F-18 Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler, and the E-2C Hawkeye, as well as Seahawk MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters.

Before each aerial operation, maintenance personnel prepare the aircraft, guide them to takeoff positions, and ensure the proper installation on the catapults. The aircraft are then propelled by different systems to provide the necessary support and force.

The USS “George Washington” has a control tower where all decisions related to ship command are made, including air traffic control and surrounding activities. The flight deck features lights that help pilots land correctly, deflectors to redirect engine exhaust, and defense weapons systems against missiles, ships, and enemy aircraft.

In conclusion, the USS “George Washington” is a highly sophisticated aircraft carrier with a diverse range of aircraft and a dedicated crew working around the clock to ensure its operational readiness and success in missions. The joint exercises with the Argentine Navy serve to enhance interoperability and strengthen diplomatic relations between the two countries.