U.S. Navy Bids Farewell to the First Nuclear Carrier
Kyle Maxey posted on February 10, 2017 |
Task Force 1, the world's first nuclear-powered task force. Enterprise, Long Beach and Bainbridge in formation in the Mediterranean, 18 June 1964. Enterprise has Einstein's mass–energy equivalence formula E=mc² spelled out on its flight deck. Note the distinctive phased array radars in the superstructures of Enterprise and Long Beach.

Task Force 1, the world's first nuclear-powered task force. Enterprise, Long Beach and Bainbridge in formation in the Mediterranean, 18 June 1964. Enterprise has Einstein's mass–energy equivalence formula E=mc² spelled out on its flight deck. Note the distinctive phased array radars in the superstructures of Enterprise and Long Beach.

After nearly 55 years in service, the U.S. Navy has announced that the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has been decommissioned. At the time of its construction, the Enterprise represented such a leap in naval ability that its name defined an entire class of carriers that would be built for decades thereafter.

Displacing some 93,284 tons, the USS Enterprise has been a pivotal part of US Naval strategy since 1961, travelling more than 1 million nautical miles during the course of its career.  At capacity, the Enterprise carried 3000 seaman 1,800 airmen and kept 90 aircraft aboard.

As part of its propulsion system, the USS Enterprise was home to 8 Westinghouse A2W nuclear reactors that essentially untethered the ship from any fossil fuel-based supply line. As a result, the carrier could prowl the globe without concern of being stranded.

Although the Enterprise remained a formidable warship well into the 21st century, the soaring cost of upkeep forced the Pentagon to begin the carrier’s decommissioning process in 2012. Over the course of 48 months the Enterprise was stripped of its military assets and readied for its final decommissioning phase, where its reactors and fuel will be removed and safely stored.

"As this ship retires," said Capt. Todd Beltz, commanding officer of the Enterprise, "we know the memory will live beyond her and we—the sailors, the shipbuilders, the supporters of Enterprise—we are that link to the next Enterprise."

The USS Enterprise, and the entire Enterprise class of carriers, have been succeeded by the Nimitz class of carriers and the Nimitz by the emerging Gerald R. Ford class of carriers. Though it may be a few generations old, the USS Enterprise and its legacy in US Naval history will remain.

In fact, in 2027, a Ford-class carrier, CVN 80, will be christened the USS Enterprise to renew the tradition of an Enterprise boldly going where no ship has gone before.

For more naval news, check out the U.S. Navy’s most advanced warship: the USS Zumwalt.

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