WASHINGTON, D.C.---The Navy announced Wednesday that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will return to Norfolk two months early. The ship will be home before Christmas.

The carrier will be in port for two months and then will be sent back to the Middle East.

The unusual move is being made to accommodate delays of repair work on USS Nimitz. The Everett, Wash.-based carrier was expected to deploy to the region to relieve Eisenhower early next year. Nimitz is now expected to deploy once repair work is complete.

Bringing Eisenhower back home to Norfolk in December will permit the Navy to resurface the ship's flight deck and make it available to return and remain in the Middle East region for several more months.

This decision also provides the ship's crew a holiday respite from what will become nearly 10 months on station.

The USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, currently deployed to the region, will continue providing carrier presence there.

Navy officials said Wednesday the Nimitz, which had been scheduled to deploy to the region in January to relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, will put that off until summer in order to complete repairs to its propulsion system.

The Ike will deploy in February and remain for four months. That means that in December and January the USS John C. Stennis will be the only carrier in that area.

AP-WF-11-21-12 2143GMT

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