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NEWS | March 6, 2024

ALRE team works at historic pace to finish work on 3 Nimitz catapults

By PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

The Aircraft Launch and Recovery Team at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility is performing three catapult alignments on USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in a historically short period of time.

According to Chris Krueger, topside assistant project superintendent, Code 368, Carrier Program Office, the ALRE team is taking on an ambitious goal of aligning the three catapults during the ship’s current six-month planned incremental availability.

“Historically, a catapult alignment has taken 26 weeks to complete,” Krueger said. “Catapult alignments are normally executed during a refueling and complex overhaul or scheduled during maintenance periods greater than six months.”

According to Andrew Hanson, marine machinery mechanic, Shop 38, Marine Machinist, what the team is trying to accomplish is unprecedented.

“It’s a lot of work — a lot,” Hanson said. “Our team has excelled in the past, working in tight windows, and has overcome many obstacles in the process. We take pride in our ability to achieve such feats.”

Catapult alignment work can be very challenging because of the precision needed, and the working conditions ALRE teammates sometimes face.

“Certain phases of the alignment process must be done while exposed to the freezing temperatures of winter, or high heat of the summer,” said Krueger. “Due to the technical requirements and sensitivity for flight safety, employees have to be flexible and ready to alternate work schedules. The team must sometimes work backshifts to progress work at the necessary pace required to complete the project.”

Hanson said the ALRE team's vital work requires some of the tightest tolerances known to exist on a carrier, regardless of the working conditions.

“Most of the tolerances are 10/1000 of an inch or less, spanning more than the length of a football field,” Hanson said. “The Naval Air Systems Command's standards help us ensure the reliability, repeatability and safety to launch and recover aircraft. Precision measurements are crucial to maintaining alignments.”

According to Krueger, the fully staffed ALRE team includes approximately 40 marine machinery mechanics, two riggers, six welders, six shipfitters, and one pipe fitter. Continuous engineering support from engineers with Code 260.3, Fluid & Mechanical Engineering & Planning, working side by side with Naval Air Systems Command and Carrier and Field Service Unit is crucial to the success of catapult work. Code 290 Combat Systems Engineering & Planning group support is also key to the successful completion of the work.

Between availabilities, most of the ALRE team works on other projects, Krueger said. Only a core group of eight team members remain, to help plan the work for the next availability.

The ALRE team's dedication and results at PSNS & IMF have become the standard for catapult work throughout the Navy.

“I’ve been on the ALRE core team for more five years now," Hanson said. "I love the culture, camaraderie and family we’ve developed here. We’re proud of our work — and it’s vital importance to the Navy and the nation.”

Members of the Nimitz ALRE team must always do their catapult work to exacting standards, keeping safety in mind, because of what that alignment work means to Sailors, Hanson said.

“It’s a matter of life and death to service members,” Hanson said. “Our work on catapults and arresting gear keeps Sailors safe — and able to do their jobs while maintaining our nation’s defense.”