Older aircraft carriers have to be able to hold huge amounts of fuel – the USS Kitty Hawk can hold FOUR MILLION gallons of fuel! But newer aircraft carriers rely on nuclear reactors for power – uranium is converted into steam which propels the ship, and since the energy produced by one pound of uranium is equal to about one million gallons of fuel, these ships never have to refuel.
Aircraft carriers can be out to sea for up to 25 years between refueling procedures. They can be out for such a great length of time because the process itself can take up to two years, as both refueling and overhauling procedures are required for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Typically, refueling is done halfway through a carrier’s operational period. A longer, more extensive procedure, known as Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) can take up to three years.
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