The United States Navy

displacement: 85,600 tons
length: 1, 101 feet
beam: 133 feet; extreme width: 252 feet
draft: 35 feet
speed: 30+ knots
complement: 4,600 crew
class: Enterprise

From: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships and United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995,
both published by the Naval Historical Center, and
USS Enterprise (CVN 65) public affairs office

Full-screen images are linked from the images in the text below.

The eighth Enterprise (CVA(N)-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched 24 September 1960 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. William. B. Franke, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 25 November 1961, Captain V. P. de Poix, in command.

After commissioning, Enterprise began a lengthy series of tests and training exercises, designed to determine the full capabilities of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Immediately her superlative characteristics and performance became obvious.

The first air operations were conducted by Enterprise as Cmdr. George Talley made an arrested landing and catapult launch in an F8U Crusader. Although three TF Traders of VR-40 had taken off from her deck on 30 October 1961 to transport VIPs to the mainland after observing sea trials, Cmdr. Talley's flights marked the start of Enterprise fleet operations. One month later, on 20 February 1962, the nuclear-powered carrier played a role in the space age when Enterprise acted as a tracking and measuring station for the epochal flight of Friendship 7, the Project Mercury space capsule in which Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, made the United States' first orbital space flight.

In August, Enterprise joined the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Soon after its return to Norfolk, Va., in October 1962, Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis. On a televised address to the nation 22 October 1962, President John F. Kennedy annouced that U.S. reconnaissance flights had revealed a Soviet buildup of offensive missiles on the island of Cuba, 90 miles off the Florida coast. The President ordered a naval and air quarantine on shipment of offensive militaryt equipment to Cuba and demanded the Soviets dismantle the missile sites there.

As the President imposed the blockade of Cuba which he had announced in his TV broadcast two days earlier, ships of the blockading force were in position at sea. Aircraft from Enterprise, USS Independence (CVA 62), USS Essex (CVA 9) and USS Randolph (CVA 15) , and those from shore stations were in the air, patrolling their assigned sectors. On the same day the service tours of all officers and enlisted men were extended indefinitely.

Enterprise and other ships in the Second Fleet set up a "strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba." The blockade was put in place on Oct. 24, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day. On Oct. 28, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles and dismantle the missile bases in Cuba.

On 19 December 1962, an E-2A piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Lee M. Ramsey was catapulted off Enterprise in the first shipboard test of nose-tow gear designed to replace the catapult bridle and reduce launching intervals. Minutes later the second nose-tow launch was made by an A-6A.

Enterprise made its second and third deployments to the Mediterranean in 1963 and 1964. During the latter deployment, on 13 May 1964, the world's first nuclear-powered task force was formed when USS Long Beach (CGN 9) and USS Bainbridge (CGN 7) joined Enterprise. On 31 July 1964, the ships were designated Task Force One and, leaving Gibraltar, sailed on Operation Sea Orbit, an historic 65-day, 30,216-mile voyage around the world, accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment. In October, Enterprise returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for its first refueling and overhaul.

Night launch of F-4 Phantom

The Big E transferred to the Pacific's Seventh Fleet in November 1965 and became the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat when it launched bomb-laden aircraft in a projection of power against the Viet Cong near Bien Hoa on 2 December 1965. Enterprise launched 125 sorties on the first day, unleashing 167 tons of bombs and rockets on the enemy's supply lines. The next day it set a record of 165 strike sorties in a single day.

On 23 January 1968, when word was received of the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER 2) by a North Korean patrol boat, a Task Group, composed of Enterprise and screen, was ordered to reverse course in the East China Sea and to run northward to the Sea of Japan where it operated in the vicinity of South Korea for almost a month.

A fire aboard Enterprise on 14 January 1969, resulting from detonation of a MK-32 Zuni rocket warhead overheated by exhaust from an aircraft starting unit, took 27 lives, injured 314 and destroyed 15 aircraft. Repairs to the ship were completed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in early March. On 14 April, North Korean aircraft shot down an unarmed EC-121 propeller-driven Constellation which was on a routine reconnaissance patrol over the Sea of Japan from its base at Atsugi, Japan. The entire 31-man crew was killed. U.S. response was to activate Task Force 71 to protect such flights over those international waters in the future. Initially, the TF consisted of the carriers Enterprise, USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14), USS Ranger (CVA 61) and USS Hornet (CVA 12) with cruiser and destroyer screens.

In all, Enterprise made six combat deployments to Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1972. Between combat tours, Enterprise returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in 1970 for an overhaul and second refueling. On 19 January 1971, she completed sea trials with her newly-designed nuclear reactor cores which contained enough energy to power her for the next 10 years.

In Vietnam, with USS Oriskany (CVA 34), USS Midway (CVA 41) and Enterprise serving intermittently on station, a total of 22 two-carrier days and nine single-carrier days resulted in a strike sortie count of 2,001 on 30 July 1971. Strike operations during the month of July were disrupted when the carriers on station evaded three different typhoons — Harriet, Kim and Jean. A slight increase in South Vietnam strike sorties occurred during the month. These were mainly visual strikes against enemy troop positions and in support of U.S. helicopter operations.

During August 1971, dual carrier operations were conducted only during the first week— and, as of 16 August, Enterprise filled in the remainder of the month alone on station. Thus, a total of eight two-carrier days and 23 single-carrier days represented a near reversal of July's carrier mix, producing a strike sortie count for the month of 1,915.

Single carrier operations on Yankee Station were conducted throughout September 1971, except for one two-carrier day. The schedule had Enterprise flying the first four days, Oriskany the middle of the month and Midway completing the last four days. The single carrier posture, combined with the low intended sortie rate, produced 1,243 strike sorties during the month. Oriskany flyers participated in a joint USAF/USN protective reaction strike in southern North Vietnam on 21 September.

On Yankee Station during October 1971, single carrier operations were conducted except for the last day. Midway completed her final line period 10 October, with Enterprise taking over the next day for the remainder of the month. Oriskany joined the last day, and together the three carriers recorded a total of 1,024 ordnance-delivering strike sorties, 30 of them in South Vietnam; the remainder in Laos. The air warfare posture in North Vietnam was altered 20 October through the deployment of six MiG aircraft south of 20º north — two each at Vinh, Quan Lang and Bai Thuong.

Alternating on Yankee Station, Oriskany, USS Constellation and Enterprise provided 22 two-carrier days on the line during November 1971, delivering 1,766 ordnance-bearing strike sorties, twelve and nine of them into North Vietnam and South Vietnam respectively. Two reconnaissance missions were flown during the month, with the airfield at Vinh the mission assignment. Escort aircraft on both missions expended ordnance in a protective reaction role against firing antiaircraft artillery sites near the field. Other protective reaction strikes were executed.

On 23 October 1972, the U.S., ended all tactical air sorties into North Vietnam above the 20th parallel and brought to a close Linebacker I operations. This goodwill gesture of terminating the bombing in North Vietnam above the 20th parallel was designed to help promote the peace negotiations being held in Paris, France. During May through October, the Navy flew a total of 23,652 tactical air attack sorties into North Vietnam. U.S. tactical air sorties during Linebacker I operations helped stem the flow of supplies into North Vietnam, thereby limiting the operating capabilities of North Vietnam's invading army. Carriers involved in Linebacker I operations were Enterprise, Constellation, USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) USS Hancock (CVA 19), USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63), Midway, USS Saratoga (CVA 60), Oriskany, and USS America (CVA 66).

During the 23 October through 17 December 1972 bombing halt above the 20th parallel in North Vietnam, no MiG kills or U.S. losses were recorded. Three to four carriers alternated on Yankee Station during the bombing halt. These were: Enterprise, Kitty Hawk, Midway, Saratoga, Oriskany, America and Ranger.

Linebacker II operations were initiated on 18 December 1972 when negotiations in the Paris peace talks stalemated. The Linebacker II operations ended on 29 December when the North Vietnamese returned to the peace table. These operations involved the resumed bombing of North Vietnam above the 20th parallel and was an intensified version of Linebacker I. The reseeding of mine fields in Haiphong harbor was resumed and concentrated strikes were carried out against surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft artillery sites, enemy army barracks, petroleum storage areas, Haiphong naval and shipyard areas, and railroad and truck stations. Navy tactical air attack sorties under Linebacker II were centered in the coastal areas around Hanoi and Haiphong. There were 705 Navy sorties in this area during Linebacker II. .

Between 18 and 22 December the Navy conducted 119 Linebacker II strikes in North Vietnam. Bad weather was the main limiting factor on the number of tactical air strikes flown during this operation. On 28 December 1972, an F-4J Phantom II from VF-142 on board Enterprise downed a MiG-21, the 24th downed by Navy and Marine Corps pilots dureing the Vietnam War. The following carriers participated in Linebacker II operations: Enterprise, Saratoga, Oriskany, America and Ranger.

On 27 January 1973, the Vietnam cease-fire, announced four days earlier, came into effect and Oriskany, America, Enterprise and Ranger on Yankee Station, cancelled all combat sorties into North and South Vietnam. However, on 28 January, aircraft from Enterprise and Ranger flew 81 combat sorties against lines-of-communication targets in Laos. The corridor for overflights was between Hue and Da Nang in South Vietnam. These combat support sorties were flown in support of the Laotian government which had requested this assistance and it had no relationship with the cease-fire in Vietnam.

Following the cease-fire in Vietnam, Enterprise proceeded to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., where Big E was altered and refitted to support the Navy's newest fighter aircraft —- the F-14A Tomcat. The first operational aircraft made its maiden landings and take-offs from Enterprise on 18 March 1974, and when Enterprise made its seventh western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment in September 1974, it became the first carrier to deploy with the new fighter plane.

On 9 February 1975, Enterprise responded to calls for disaster relief from the island nation of Mauritius which was struck on 6 February by Typhoon Cervaise. Arriving at Port Louis on the 12th, carrier personnel spent more than 10,000 man-hours rendering such assistance as restoring water, power and telephone systems, clearing roads and debris, and providing helicopter, medical, food and potable water support to the stricken area.

Enterprise, along with Midway, Coral Sea, Hancock, and USS Okinawa (LPH 3) deployed to waters off Vietnam on 19 April 1975 for possible evacuation contingencies as North Vietnam overran two-thirds of South Vietnam and pronounced the carriers' presence a brazen challenge and a violation of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Ten days later, on 29 April, in a period of three hours, Operation Frequent Wind was carried out by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters from the Seventh Fleet. Frequent Wind involved the evacuation of American citizens from the capital of South Vietnam under heavy attack from the invading forces of North Vietnam. The military situation around Saigon and its Tan Son Nhut airport made evacuation by helicopter the only way out.

President Gerald Ford ordered the evacuation when Viet Cong shelling forced the suspension of normal transport aircraft use at Tan Son Nhut airport. With fighter cover provided by carrier aircraft, the helicopters landed on Saigon rooftops and at Tan Son Nhut to evacuate the Americans. The airport became the main helicopter landing Zone: it was defended by Marines from the 9th Amphibious Brigade flown in for that purpose. All but a handful of the 900 Americans in Saigon were evacuated. The last helicopter lifted off the roof of the United States Embassy at 7:52 p.m. carrying Marine security guards. During Operation Frequent Wind, Enterprise aircraft flew 95 sorties.

The ship made its eighth WESTPAC in 1976, during which, on 27 February 1977, Enterprise and her escort ships were directed to operate off the east African coast in response to public derogatory remarks against the U.S. by the President of Uganda and his order that all Americans in Uganda meet with him.

Enterprise sets to sea past Golden Gate Bridge

Following her ninth WESTPAC deployment in 1978, Enterprise sailed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in January 1979 for a 30-month comprehensive overhaul. Enterprise made its 10th, 11th and 12th WESTPAC deployments in 1982, 1984 and 1986, respectively.

When Enterprise deployed in 1986, it became the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal. On 28 April, Enterprise transited the canal enroute from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean to relieve USS Coral Sea (CV 43), on station with USS America (CV 66) off the coast of Libya. The transit began at 0300 and lasted 12 hours. It was the first time in over 22 years that Enterprise was in the Mediterranean Sea. On 24 March, Libyan forces had fired missiles at U.S. Navy forces operating in the Gulf of Sidra. For the next month, aircraft from America and Coral Sea pounded Libyan targets.

In April 1988, Enterprise was on its 13th deployment, assigned to escort reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf while stationed in the North Arabian Sea. On 18 April, the United States retaliated against Iran following the 1 April incident in which USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) struck an Iranian mine in international waters. The retaliation involved both surface and air units. Carrier Air Wing 11 squadrons from Enterprise were the major aviation participants. VAW-I 17s "Nighthawks" provided airborne early warning tracking and analysis of targets as as air intercept control. The initial American strikes centered around a surface group action against two Iranian oil platforms that had been identified as support bases for Iranian attacks on merchant shipping. Elements of CVW-11 provided air support for the surface groups in the form of surface combat air patrols, flying A-6E Intruders and A-7E Corsair IIs, and combat air patrols with F-14 Tomcats.

The initial action began with coordinated strikes by two separate surface groups. One group, consisting of two destroyers and one amphibious ship, attacked the Sassan platform while the other group, comprising a guided missile cruiser and two frigates attacked the Sirri platform. Iranian response to the destruction of the two oil platforms involved the dispatching of numerous gunboats to prey on various targets in the Arabian Gulf. Following an attack by Iranian Boghammar speedboats on an American-flagged supply ship and a Panamanian-flagged ship, A-6Es from VA-95 were vectored in on the speedhoats by an American frigate. The aircraft dropped Rockeye cluster bombs on the speedboats, sinking one and damaging several others.

Action continued to escalate. Joshan, an Iranian Combattante II Kaman-class fast attack craft, challenged USS Wainwright (CG 28) and her surface group. The American ships responded to the challenge by sinking Joshan. Fighting continued when the Iranian frigate Sahand departed Bandar Abbas and challenged elements of an American surface group. She was observed by two VA-95 A-6Es while they were flying surface combat air patrol for USS Joseph Strauss (DDG 16).

Sahand launched missiles at the A-6Es, and the Intruders replied with launches of two Harpoons and four laser-guided Skipper bombs. This was followed by a Harpoon firing from Joseph Strauss. The weapons delivered against Sahand were successful.

Fires blazing on her decks eventually reached her magazines resulting in the final explosions that led to her sinking. The loss of Sahand, one of Iran's most modern ships. was not enough to stop the suicidal sorties of the Iranian navy. A sister ship, Sabalan, departed her port for operations in the Gulf. She fired on several A-6Es from VA-95 with a surface-to-air missile. One of the Intruders responded with a laser-guided bomb that hit Sabalan and stopped her dead in the water. The Iranian frigate was taken in tow by an Iranian tug with the stern partially submerged. VA-95's aircraft, as ordered, did not continue the attack. This action ended the retaliatory strikes against Iran that began as a result of Iranian mining in international waters.

Enterprise began its 14th overseas deployment in September 1989. In early December, Enterprise, along with USS Midway, participated in Operation Classic Resolve, President George H.W. Bush's response to Philippine President Corazon Aquino's request for air support during the rebel coup attempt. Enterprise remained on station conducting flight operations in the waters outside Manila Bay, until the situation subsided, and then proceeded to her scheduled deployment to the Indian Ocean.

In March 1990, Enterprise completed its highly successful around-the-world deployment by arriving in Norfolk, Va. Enterprise had successfully and safely steamed more than 43,000 miles from its long-time homeport of Alameda, Calif.

In October 1990, Enterprise moved to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for refueling and the Navy's largest complex overhaul ever attempted. It returned to sea 27 September 1994, for sea trials, during which Enterprise performed an extended full power run as fast as when it was new.

On 28 June 1996, Enterprise began its 15th overseas deployment. The Big E enforced no-fly zones in Bosnia (Operation Joint Endeavor) and Iraq (Operation Southern Watch). The deployment also marked the end of an era when VA-75 retired the A-6E Intruder from the Navy. Enterprise completed its deployment 20 December 1996.

In February 1997, Enterprise entered Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. for an extended selective restrictive availability lasting four-and-a-half months. Following workups, Enterprise departed on its 16th overseas deployment 6 November 1998, this time with Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3).

Shortly after the start of the deployment, on the night of 8 November 1998, Enterprise suffered a major accident when an EA-6B Prowler crashed into an S-3 Viking on the carrier's flight deck. The mishap occurred when the EA-6B was returning to Enterprise following night qualifications and struck the S-3 which was on the flight deck. Both crews were reported to have ejected from their aircraft.

A fire broke out involving both aircraft, but was quickly extinguished by the Enterprise flight deck crew. Three of the four Prowler crew were lost at sea. The remains of the fourth were recovered shortly after the crash. The two crew of the Viking were rushed to the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va. No other Enterprise crew members were injured. A search for three EA-6B Prowler crew members was suspended after nearly 24 hours and after covering more than 100 square nautical miles on the water and 700 nautical miles in the air.

Following a high-speed Atlantic transit, Big E relieved USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Arabian Gulf 23 November.

During a port call in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, Enterprise hosted former President George H.W. Bush and a live concert by Grammy Award winning rock group Hootie and the Blowfish.

Just days after the stop in Jebel Ali, on 16 December 1998, the Enterprise battlegroup spearheaded Operation Desert Fox, smashing Iraqi military targets with more than 300 Tomahawk land attack missiles and 691,000 pounds of ordnance. The 70-hour assault 16 through 20 December was accomplished by Enterprise, USS Gettysburg (CG 64), USS Stout (DDG 55), USS Nicholson (DD 982) and USS Miami (SSN 755), capturing world attention and significantly reducing Saddam Hussein's capacity to build weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen flew out to the carrier Dec. 23, bringing along his wife Janet, Sen. Daniel Inouye from Hawaii, Rep. John Murtha from Pennsylvania, and singers Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Carole King and David Ball. The Secretary enjoyed lunch with Sailors on the mess deck before he kicked off a concert on the flight deck.

Following operations off Sicily, Enterprise returned north, this time for a port visit in Cannes, France. Plans changed slightly, though, as Yugoslavian peace talks in Rambouillet, France, deteriorated and the carrier was ordered back to the Adriatic after only 24 hours in Cannes.

On a short recall tether, Enterprise and CVW-3 pulled into port at Trieste, Italy, in early March 1999 for their last Mediterranean port visit before returning to the Arabian Gulf. They relieved USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) 14 March 1999 and took over the helm of Southern Watch. Enterprise returned home 6 May.

During the 1998-1999 deployment, Enterprise steamed more than 50,000 miles and spent 151 days underway. The aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) were launched nearly 9,000 times, logging approximately 17,000 hours in the sky. The Enterprise Battle Group was the first to deploy fully IT- 21 capable, affording the team unprecedented internal and external communication channels.

Enterprise began its 17th overseas deployment on 25 April 2001, with Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8). In addition to Enterprise and its embarked air wing, the ships of the battle group included guided missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64); guided missile destroyers USS Stout (DDG 55), USS McFaul (DDG 74) and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66); destroyers USS Nicholson (DD 982) and USS Thorn (DD 988); guided missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47); logistics ship USS Arctic (AOE 8); and attack submarines USS Providence (SSN 719) and USS Jacksonville (SSN 699).

During the early part of the 2001 deployment, Enterprise and four Enterprise Battle Group ships participated in the Joint Maritime Course 01-2 (JMC 01-2), a British Royal Navy joint and combined warfare training exercise, 18 through 28 June 2001 in the North Sea near the Hebrides Islands, as well as land and airspace around Scotland.

Enterprise at sea Sept. 2001

On 11 September 2001, Enterprise was just beginning her voyage home from the Arabian Gulf. Watching a U.S. morning news show live, although locally in the early evening, the crew saw the terrorist attacks by the al Qaeda terrorist network against New York's World Trade Center and on the Pentagon. Immediately, Enterprise turned around and headed back to the waters off Southwest Asia. On 7 October 2001, the U.S. launched air attacks against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and Taliban military installations in Afghanistan. The carefully-targeted actions were designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorist operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.

For approximately the next three weeks, aircraft from Enterprise flew nearly 700 missions in Afghanistan and dropped hundred of thousands of pounds of ordnance. Departing from Southwest Asia in late October, Enterprise arrived back at its homeport of Norfolk, Va., on 10 November 2001, about two weeks later than originally planned. During its last day at sea, the ship played host to the ABC Television Network's Good Morning America for a live two-hour broadcast of the program from the ship.

On 7 January 2002, Enterprise entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a scheduled one-year Extended Docking Selected Restricted Availability (EDSRA).

Effective date: 11 June 2002


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USS Enterprise (CV 6) history

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