The aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived Monday in San Diego, where most of the crew will swap places with sailors assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan.
The 10-day switch will start off a complicated swap involving three flattops over the next few months.
The Reagan crew will sail the George Washington around the tip of South America and end up in Virginia, where the vessel will undergo an extended nuclear refueling.
Meanwhile, the George Washington crew will transport the Reagan to its new homeport in Japan, where the sailors are based. The Navy is locating its most modern ships in Asia, and the Reagan was recently overhauled.
The Reagan sailors will fly back home from Virginia to await the arrival of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is currently deployed in the Middle East but will be based in San Diego. They'll swap places with the "Big Stick's" crew, which will wind up on the George Washington.
The switches are expected to save the Navy $41 million in crew relocation costs.
"To ensure the success of this historic hull swap, the sailors aboard the three ships and their families have had to remain flexible to ensure the Navy's carrier fleet is manned effectively," said Capt. Timothy Kuehhas, GW's commanding officer. "Key personnel, especially those related to unique systems, will remain with their ships."
Captains, executive officers and nuclear personnel will remain with their vessels, according to the Navy.
The Reagan, which has been based in San Diego for 11 years, is scheduled to leave near the end of this month.