Navy's legendary carrier USS Enterprise on final voyage
The USS Enterprise leaves Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on its final deployment Sunday.
March 12th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Navy's legendary carrier USS Enterprise on final voyage

The legendary aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, America's oldest active-duty warship, was steaming in the Atlantic on Monday on the last deployment of its 50-year career.

The carrier and its crew of 3,100 left Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on Sunday in the ship's 22nd deployment. The ship's air wing and other naval staff aboard add another 1,500 personnel.

It will be deployed in the Navy's Sixth Fleet and Fifth Fleet areas of operations, which cover Europe, Africa and the Middle East, including current hot spots Iran and Syria.

"Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years," the ship's commanding officer, Capt. William C. Hamilton, said in a statement. "The ship and crew's performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant."

Nicknamed the "Big E," the Enterprise, CVN-65, is the eighth U.S. Navy vessel and second aircraft carrier to carry that name.

The first carrier Enterprise was built in 1937 and was one of only three carriers built before World War II to survive the conflict. That Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947 as the most decorated warship in U.S. naval history.

The current Enterprise, at 1,123 feet the longest ship in the U.S. Navy, saw its first action 11 months after its commissioning, when it was to dispatched to enforce a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. It participated in strikes on North Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s. In 2001, Enterprise was one of the first ships to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks, as its warplanes dropped 800,000 pounds of bombs on Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy said.

The ship was the star of the U.S. Navy for many of its 50 years, and that included a role in "Top Gun," the 1986 Tom Cruise movie about naval aviators.

"The crew is very mindful that we are following the legacy of the more than 200,000 sailors who have come before us during the last 50 years," Hamilton said in a statement. "It's the sailors of this great warship, and the sailors that have served aboard Big E over the past half-century that have established the legacy she enjoys."

The 95,000-ton ship is to be deactivated in Norfolk on December 1 and decommissioned once all reusable items are removed, Ensign Brynn Olson, the ship's deputy public affairs officer, said Monday.

The ship will then be towed to Washington state for scrapping, Olson said.

What the Enterprise will not become is a museum, she said, because removing its eight nuclear reactors will involve so much destruction that the ship could not be repaired to museum quality.

"It would just be too expensive to put her back together," Olson said.

Whether there will be a ninth USS Enterprise remains to be seen.

There are several active online petitions to get hull number CVN-80, the third in the Navy's new Gerald Ford class of carriers, named the Enterprise. That ship is planned to be commissioned in 2021.

"There is no U.S. Navy without a USS Enterprise," one petitioner wrote on

Said another, "Every Navy needs a flagship, and the U.S.S. Enterprise should be ours! There must and will always be a ship named Enterprise."

Why carriers may be good for parking cars but not landing new jets

First image of new Chinese carrier

Post by:
Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (249 Responses)

    the enterprise will be missed... they should turn it into a cruise ship..
    just dont let any italians drive it..

    March 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tony

    Having been there and done that as a civiian "technical advisor" onboard the Enterprise during several Western Pacific "deployments, the big "E" and her crew exemplified what high standards the USN stands for. Additionally, I have never been been on a carrier or any ship that was as fast and could run in excess of 40 mph from the Philippines to San Diego non stop. An engineering masterpiece.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan S

      Tony: You write as if you have some personal experience with the ship, so maybe you can tell me: why is it being decommissioned? This is not a quiz or a trick question, I'm genuinely curious. I understand that the ship is 50 years old, but given the huge cost of building a new carrier, seems to me even a not-quite-start-of-the-art big-deck carrier, even with moderately increased maintenance requirements, would be worth holding on to. If nothing else as a training ship.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Technology, mainly. BNig E has 8 reactors....its gotta tell you something when the new carriers have two. From a high level...its the same as a car. You can keep it for just so long...eventually, the cost of repairs and keeping it up exceed the cost of ownership of a new car.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan M.

      @ Alan – She is being retired essentially because she has exceeded her life expectancy. She is the last ship of her class still in service, meaning parts for repair are literally impossible to find. Many of the machinists on board create parts from scratch because they can't be found elsewhere. She has served her nation well.

      March 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lockon


      Enterprise is her own class. CVN-68 Nimitz was the next nuclear powered carrier. CV-66 was a Kitty Hawk class carrier and CV-67 JFK was her own class again( but, based on the Kitty Hawk).

      July 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Xander

    Fair winds Big E and crew! Give 'em hell!

    March 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kk

    Long live the BIG "E"!!

    March 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike in NJ

    Respect for a truly awesome ship, and more importantly, the men and women who served aboard her with honor for so many years. I hope very few years pass before a new flagship Enterprise is commissioned to continue the tradition.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. stujordan

    I say put the judicial, legislative and executive branches in her hull and sink her in the deepest part of the ocean 🙂

    March 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    I understand it might be too difficult to turn the entire carrier into a museum, but how about saving her superstructure (the big tower that sits above her deck)? It would make a heck of a museum centerpiece and wouldn't be nearly as unwieldy as the rest of her.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terazmac

      The Superstructure was much more impressive before the removed the Phased Array Radar Dome from it. Now it just looks like stacked boxes.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. stujordan

    The name "Enterprise" makes me want to vomit. Our flagship should be named "Liberty or Death".

    March 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • xrk9854

      Another person who is ignorant of our naval history. "Enterprise" is a proud name that has been carried by many historic vessels.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed from Yonkers

      Your name wouldn't be Santorum by any chance, would it? 🙂

      March 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      stujordan, stujordan, don't tarnish the reputation of our Navy and the men and women who have served, or are serving, on board her.
      If you disagree with the policies of the Navy, then contact your congressman. If you're not a citizen, then what are you complaining about?

      March 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mullahfullahbullah

    I hear we have more admirals than we do ships. Perhaps it is time to cull a few of the admirals and pare it down to where the numbers make sense. Thanks to everyone that served on the Enterprise and all the supporting ships.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chuck

    Doesn't anyone think it's a little odd that they would be sending this aging carrier to the Persian Gulf on its final voyage? I hope they aren't planning another Gulf of Tonkin incident. There are those who want us into this war with Iran at any cost.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard J.

      No. All ships have a final voyage/deployment. They happen to be highlighting this ship because of the historic name it carries. Don't read something that is not there.

      March 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brian

    Anyone know a good area in Norfolk to view the ship on December 1st? It's be 20 years since I've been there, and I no longer have a valid DOD dependent's card.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      You can always hang out at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, or you can chill at Ft. Monroe right there by the HRBT. I'd imagine there will be plenty of people there as well....and, I am not so sure you need a base sticker.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BobZemko

    Not only are the reactors hard to remove, but the matter/antimatter reactors are tricky, too !!

    March 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed from Yonkers

      I wish I has said that first!

      March 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DaveO

    We still have the starship Enterprise! (sorry...couldn't help it)

    March 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Natch

    It will be a sad day when the current Enterprise is retired, but I know she'll go down in history as the class act she is. I served on board, for 3 deployments (over 4.5 years), back in the 80's.

    Hopefully the Navy will give us old timer shipmates a chance to see her off, before they cut her up. I wasn't able to make the 50th birthday celebration, this past November, but would love the chance to walk the passageways one more time, before she's cut up.

    To the present crew of the Big E, fair winds and following seas, and may you bring glory to your ship, as those of us in the past did before you. She will serve you well, and I'm sure you will do the same.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry

      Natch, we both served on the Big E at the same time. Made the 82-83 under Capt Kelly, and the 86, and 88 WESTPAC under Capt (Rocky) Spane. I would have loved to see the "prise" become a museum. But alas, removing those reactors will really violate the integrity of the ship. I will carry fond memories of serving aboard a wonderful ship.

      March 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Oodoodanoo

    Dear Enterprise,

    Thank you for defeating the Klingons and Borg, and for introducing us to green women.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10