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USS Washington avoids the ax -- for now (pictures)

The ship is part of an aging class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the US Navy that may soon be on the way out due to budgetary pressures.

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Charles Cooper
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1 of 11 Getty Images

USS George Washington

The 97,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington won a reprieve Friday after the Pentagon dropped its plans to mothball the ship as part of a budgetary cutback program.

The George Washington, commissioned on July 4, 1992, is one of ten nuclear-powered aircraft, so-called Nimitz-class supercarriers, in service. The Navy developed the Nimitz fleet to offset the decommissioning of the older Kitty Hawk and Enterprise category carriers. The biggest warships ever to set sail, the Nimitz carriers can house a crew of more than 6,000 and up to 82 aircraft.

Even though the carrier escaped the ax this time, the Pentagon may only be delaying the inevitable as the Navy plans to build one new Ford-class carrier every five years. The estimated cost of the newer ships: $13 billion apiece.

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Winning hearts and minds

The carrier was mobilized to assist the Philippine government in ongoing relief efforts in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan last year. Among other facilities, the carrier was able to turn into a floating aid hub as it extended the use of its 51-bed hospital ward, and three-bed intensive care unit while its helicopters helped fly aid to stricken areas.
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3 of 11 Getty Images

No to nuclear carriers

It hasn't been all been peaches and cream. Like other members of the Nimitz fleet, the USS George Washington is powered by a couple of nuclear reactors. Here's a shot of protesters from an anti-nuclear organization and other peace groups staging a demonstration at a park near the US Navy base at Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture on July 19, 2008 to protest the scheduled deployment of the carrier. Some 15,000 participants joined the rally, the organizers said, to protest against the USS George Washington, which became the first nuclear powered carrier to be based in Japan. (CVN refers to 'carrier vessel nuclear.')
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4 of 11 Getty Images

USS Nimitz

A money shot of the carrier USS Nimitz as it enters San Francisco Bay. The carrier first deployed for operations on July 7, 1976. The lead ship of the eponymous ten-carrier class, the Nimitz was commissioned on May 3, 1975.
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5 of 11 US Navy

USS John C. Stennis

An SH-60F "Seahawk" assigned to the "Eightballers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Eight conducts plane guard maneuvers near the US Navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. The Stennis was commissioned on December 9, 1995.
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6 of 11 US Navy

USS Ronald Reagan

Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan undergoing catapult maintenance. It was first deployed on March 4, 2001.
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7 of 11 US Navy

USS Carl Vinson

An F/A-18C Hornet launches from aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The carrier launched on March 15, 1980.
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USS Eisenhower

A US Navy SH-60 helicopter hovers off the bow of the USS Enterprise during a training exercise. The carrier was commissioned October 11, 1975.
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USS Abraham Lincoln

A RIM-7P NATO Sea Sparrow missile launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean. Lincoln's self-defense systems fired four Sea Sparrow missiles, engaging and destroying two BQM-74E turbojet-powered drone aircraft and a high-speed remote controlled inflatable boat during the exercise. The Abraham Lincoln was commission on February 13, 1988.
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10 of 11 Getty Images

USS Harry S. Truman

Sailors directing "flight deck control evolution during night launch and recovery operations" on February 28, 2003, at sea on board the USS Harry S. Truman. According to the US Navy, the USS Harry S. Truman is on deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom.
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USS George H.W. Bush

The USS George H.W. Bush, a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, was commissioned on January 10, 2009 at the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. This was the tenth and final Nimitz-class supercarrier of the US Navy.

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