CORONADO (CNS) - The aircraft carrier USS George Washington left San Diego Tuesday following a nearly month-long visit to take part in a three-flattop swap of home ports and crews.
The GW was originally set to depart Friday but was delayed because of mechanical issues, according to the Navy.
The carrier was based in Japan for seven years before coming to San Diego. The ship will take part in exercises with the navies of South American countries, and then sail around the tip of the southern continent and head up to Virginia, where its nuclear power plant will undergo a lengthy refueling, Navy officials said.
The USS Ronald Reagan, based in San Diego for 11 years, also was a part of the swap. It left last week for Japan.
Replacing the Reagan, the USS Theodore Roosevelt will dock in San Diego after it finishes its service in the Middle East.
Around two-thirds of the sailors from each of the three ships will remain stationed at their home base, and Navy officials estimate that keeping most of the sailors where they are could save $41 million in personnel transfer costs.
Most of the George Washington crew, for example, are sailing the Reagan to Japan, while Reagan sailors will take the GW to Virginia. The Reagan sailors will later swap places with sailors aboard the "Big Stick" when the Roosevelt arrives in San Diego.
About one-third of each crew -- mostly command personnel and nuclear power specialists -- will stay with their vessels.