NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The USS Enterprise went out on top last weekend but her retirement left the Navy down one aircraft carrier until the USS Gerald Ford is commissioned in 2016.
"Eleven is the number of carriers we need. The Ford is on track to do that," said Admiral Jonathan Greenert. "We've taken [Ford being commissioned in 2016] into account in our maintenance schedules and our operational schedules and the ability for contingencies."
Retired Rear Admiral Fred Metz was the Director of Carrier Programs at the Pentagon and says the Navy has to be careful with math determining the number of aircraft carriers that are actually ready to take their place at the tip of the spear.
"One thing you need to remember in carriers, when they come out of a major overhaul period like the three, actually four of them are right now, you can't really depend on them.," Metz said. "You know, for up to eight months, almost a year."
Eight months has become the new normal for carrier deployments and the ships that comprise a Carrier Strike Group.
"It's a little tough to have to deal with that each time and have her by ourselves," said Navy wife Michelle Gibson.
Gibson's husband, Quinn, just returned from a nine-month deployment aboard the destroyer USS McFaul, delayed by the crisis in Libya.
"We're moving into a period where we're going to need the Navy more and more," Sen. Jimm Webb (D-VA) said.
Webb said he is concerned about the effect extended deployments might have on the Navy's ability to keep experienced sailors.
"Retention starts to fall off as soon as the size of the fleet falls off because the operational tempo remains the same. I don't want to see that happen right now," Webb said.
A problem with the repair work being done on the USS Nimitz has forced the Navy to bring the USS Eisenhower back to Norfolk this month.
The ship will have it's flight deck resurfaced and sent back to the Gulf area in February for an additional four more months.