CVN 65 was commissioned on November 25, 1961, as the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It had the distinction of being the largest warship in the world from 1961 to 1970. The 'CVN' in the name stands for the US Navy's hull classification symbol for attack aircraft carriers. The 'CV' is the symbol for aircraft carrier, and the 'N' stands for nuclear power. The ship is nicknamed the 'Big E', like all other US Navy ships named 'Enterprise'. Its name signifies energy, enthusiasm, and bravery.
The Ship Unraveled
The first keel for building the ship was laid on February 4, 1958, at the Newport News Shipbuilding Corporation, and it was launched on September 24, 1960. The total length of the ship is 1,123 feet (342.3 meters), and the flight deck is 257 feet wide. The crew comprises 3,200 naval and 2,480 Air Wing personnel. Strangely, it was deployed without any armament, and was later equipped with a 20mm Phalanx Close-in Weapon System Mk 15. It was decided that six units of this class would be built, but the cost considerations didn't allow these plans to materialize. Thus, CVN-65 is the only ship of her class. The 93,500-ton vessel is second only to the Nimitz-class supercarriers in terms of weight, and took $451.3 million to construct.
The Story of The Enterprise
The ship was christened 'USS Enterprise' by Mrs. William Franke, the wife of former Secretary of the Navy, to serve as the best carrier ever to serve the US. The first shakedown cruise of the ship took place under the leadership of Captain Vincent Depoix, starting January 12, 1962. Along with USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge, it formed a nuclear-powered task force called 'Task Force One'. This group was sent on a historic voyage around the world without a single refueling or replenishment session. The ship journeyed the 30,565-mile voyage around the world successfully.
It became involved in its first combat duty in the Vietnam War, when it joined the Pacific's Seventh Fleet in November 1965. On the first day, it sent 125 sorties on the enemy supply lines with an astounding 167 tons of bombs and rockets pounding them. Between 1965 and 1972, the Enterprise made six combat deployments in Southeast Asia, returning to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for refueling and overhaul. In 1973, it was upgraded to house the latest 'Tomcat' aircraft and deployed in the West Pacific. In April 1988, on its duty to escort the Kuwaiti oil tankers, it engaged the Iranian navy in one of the most gruesome battles ever fought.
The ship completed a major overhaul in 1994, and since then, has carried out many successful endeavors in the Philippines crisis, Bosnia, and the Gulf war. It was returning to the US for a regular break session, when the September 11 attack took place. The ship, without any orders being given, turned back and redeployed itself in the Persian Gulf. Its fleet launched heavy aerial attacks in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime. Also, it took part in 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and 'Enduring Freedom' missions, proving to be an extremely important asset in the US fleet. In all these years of active service, it had also witnessed several accidents on its surface causing some losses, both human and financial. But it has stood the test of time as one of the most magnificent carriers ever to have sailed the oceans.
The ship will be decommissioned around 2015, and will be replaced by the newly designed Gerald R. Ford-class carriers. The name of the ship will be taken up by CVN 80 from the Gerald R. Ford-class. However, this ship has earned a reputation of being an extremely valuable and important asset to the US Navy, and will always be remembered fondly.