51 years after being commissioned into the US Navy’s fleet, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, has seen her last deployment.  She was officially decommissioned today at Pier 12 in Norfolk, Virginia.  The name Enterprise will live on however as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has just announced that the next Ford Class Carrier, CVN-80 will be named USS Enterprise.

The story of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65)  – via US Navy Public Affairs

In 1954, Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the eighth U.S. ship to bear the name Enterprise.

The giant ship was to be powered by eight nuclear reactors, two for each of its four propeller shafts. This was a daring undertaking. for never before had two nuclear reactors ever been harnessed together. As such, when the engineers first started planning the ship’s propulsion system, they were uncertain how it would work, or even if it would work according to their theories.

Materials used by the shipyard included 60,923 tons of steel; 1507 tons of aluminum; 230 miles of pipe and tubing; and 1700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods. The materials were supplied from more than 800 companies. Nine hundred shipyard engineers and designers created the ship on paper, and the millions of blueprints they created, laid end-to-end, would stretch 2400 miles, or from Miami to Los Angeles.

Three years and nine months after construction began, Enterprise was ready to present to the world as “The First, The Finest” super carrier.

The newly-christened Enterprise left the shipyard for six days of builder and Navy pre-acceptance trials. Its escort during the trials, destroyer Laffey, sent this message; “Subject: Speed Trails. 1. You win the race. 2. Our wet hats are off to an area thoroughbred.” When the Big “E” returned to port, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., stated enthusiastically, “I think we’ve hit the jackpot.”

After years of planning and work by thousands the day finally arrived. At the commissioning of Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally Jr. called it a worthy successor to the highly decorated seventh USS Enterprise of World War II. “The fighting Gray Lady, as it was called, served in such well-known battles as the raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway.” Secretary Connally went on to say, “The new Enterprise will reign a long, long time as queen of the seas.”

uss enterprise cvan 65

In October 1962, Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis. Enterprise and other ships in the Second Fleet set up quarantine of all military equipment under shipment to communist Cuba. The blockade was put in place on October 24, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day. On October 28, Soviet leader Krushchev agreed to dismantle nuclear missiles and bases in Cuba, concluding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the U.S. and USSR have ever come to nuclear war.

task force one uss enterprise operation sea orbit

Operation Sea Orbit: On 31 July 1964, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) (bottom), USS Long Beach (CGN-9) (center) and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) (top) formed “Task Force One,” the first nuclear-powered task force, and sailed 26,540 nmi (49,190 km) around the world in 65 days. Accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment, “Operation Sea Orbit” demonstrated the capability of nuclear-powered surface ships.

aircraft fire zuni rocket uss enterprise vietnam war

Aircraft burn aboard the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) on 14 January 1969. The fire started when a Zuni rocket accidentally exploded under the wing of an F-4J Phantom II off Hawaii. The following explosions blew holes in the flight deck and killed 28 people, wounding 343, 15 aircraft were destroyed. Among the latter were the depicted LTV A-7B Corsair II from attack squadron VA-146 Blue Diamonds (left) and an F-4J from fighter squadron VF-96 Fighting Falcons (right). US Navy Image

uss enterprise on fire 1969

US Navy Image

In the Fall of 2001, Enterprise aborted her transit home from a long deployment after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., on Sept. 11, and steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea. In direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Big ‘E’ once again took its place in history by becoming one of the first units to respond in a crisis with its awesome striking power. Enterprise expended more than 800,000 pounds of ordnance during the operation. The ship returned to home port at Naval Station Norfolk November 10, 2001.

Following several more deployments and an extended shipyard period that began in 2008, Enterprise embarked on its 21st deployment in January 2011, during which the carrier supported operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and multiple anti-piracy missions. During its six-month tour of duty, Big ‘E’ made port visits to Lisbon, Portugal, Marmaris, Turkey, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Mallorca, Spain.

Big ‘E’ became the fourth aircraft carrier in naval history to record 400,000 arrested landings on May 24, 2011. The milestone landing was made by an F/A-18F Super Hornet piloted by Lt. Matthew L. Enos and Weapon System Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Welsh from the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11.

uss enterprise bow

USS Enterprise returns home from deployment for the last time, US Navy Photo

uss enterprise f-14 tomcat

U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcats from Fighter Squadrons VF-14 and VF-41 prepare to take off from the flight deck of USS Enterprise a final time on 9 November 2001. The F-14 Tomcat had been flying off the deck of the Enterprise since their initial deployment, which happened to be on the Enterprise in 1974.

uss enterprise stern

(March 19, 2012) – Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Atlantic Ocean on the ship’s 22nd and final deployment. Enterprise is deployed as part of Enterprise Carrier Strike Group to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon/Released)

uss enterprise infographic huntington ingalls

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Ship Particulars:

Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Virginia
Ordered: November 15, 1957
Number of Designers: 915
Number of Drawings Made: 16,100
Miles of Blueprints Made: 2,400
Keel Laid: February 4, 1958
Launched: September 24, 1960
Commissioned: November 25, 1961
Maiden Voyage: January 12, 1962
Original Cost to Build: $451.3 million
Horsepower: 200,000+
Top Speed: 30+ knots
Length: 1,123 feet
Beam: 257 feet
Height (Keel to Mast): 250 feet
Number of Nuclear Reactors: 8 (Lifespan around 20 years)
Shafts: 4
Propellers: 4 (32 tons each)
Rudders: 4 (35 tons each)
Anchors: 2 (30 tons each)
Length of Ventilation: About 37 miles
Length of Electrical Cables: About 625 miles
Water Distillation Plant Capacity: 350,000 gallons daily
Water Displacement: 94,781 tons
Number of Compartments:3,500+
Aircraft Capacity: 60+
Flight Deck Area: 4.5 acres
Hangar Bay Area: 3.5 acres
Number of Catapults: 4 (steam)
Catapult Length: 286 feet
Landing Area: 344 feet
Elevators: 4
Armament: Multiple NATO Sea Sparrow, Phalanx CIWS, and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) mounts
Daily Meals Served Underway: 20,000+
Services: General Store, 2 Gyms, 2 Barber Shops, Laundromat, Print Shop, Chapel, Library, Television Station and Studio, Coffee Shop, Daily Newspaper distributed underway
Ship’s Company: 3,100
Air Wing: 1,300
Embarked Staffs: 200

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