WASHINGTON — Huntington Ingalls Newport News is gearing up to start a yearslong overhaul of the U.S. Navy carrier John C. Stennis, which is shifting home ports from Washington state to Norfolk to get ready for its break from the rotation.

The company announced last week it had inked a $187.5 million contract for advanced planning to support Stennis’ refueling and complex overhaul, or RCOH, slated to begin in 2021. The contract is for “engineering, design, material procurement and fabrication, documentation, resource forecasting, and pre-overhaul inspections,” according to the announcement.

In a statement, HII’s head of carrier maintenance said the contract was a critical first step toward getting Stennis started out right.

“The planning stage is critically important to the overall success of an engineering and construction project of this magnitude,” Chris Miner said. “This contract allows us to prepare for each step in the overhaul process from preparing for the ship’s arrival at Newport News to its redelivery back to the Navy.”

The carrier George Washington is currently going through its RCOH and will be replaced by Stennis when it’s completed.

Washington will eventually return to Japan to be the Navy’s forward-deployed carrier, relieving the Reagan which replaced Washington in 2015.

Washington started its 48-month RCOH last summer.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.