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."

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. m.kuck

    We're in the middle of a war and may tangle with Syria, Iran, North Korea, or China (who has missiles capable of sinking a carrier) at a moment's notice, and Obama plans to scrap a fully functional carrier that would take years to replace. REAL SMART, Obama.

    July 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Except for the fact that it is fifty years old, costs its weight in gold for maintenance, and the George H.W. Bush was meant to be its replacement. Yeah, your post is full of thinly veiled bs.

      July 12, 2012 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Huh

      But m.kuck, we have eleven aircraft carriers. Nobody else even has two.

      July 12, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • shyward

      She has been scheduled to be replaced by the Ford class for years. are you just dimb?

      July 12, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • brucea

      i think that with eight functioning or rebuildable nuclear powerplants it would power a medium city with a large percentage off it's electrical needs rather cheaply, and for quite some time. What a great use for a ship named enterprise

      July 12, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike McC

      Perhaps the most uninformed anti-Obama comment I've ever read. The decommissioning of the enterprise has nothing to do with the current President. It was planned for 2014 and the CNO requested that it be moved up because the maintenance costs on Enterprise were escalating.

      I think the 10, yes 10, Aircraft carriers the United States has left in service are more than enough to project American power anywhere, anytime and for whatever reason we want.

      July 12, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      All ships have a life cycle, just like aircraft and land vehicles. It has a replacement and is long overdue for the cutter's torch. Has nothing to do with Obama.

      July 13, 2012 at 5:06 am | Report abuse |
    • TL

      we all know what you look like, when you open your mouth, when you dont know what you talking about.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Well that's because he has a High I.Q. they tell me........................ 🙁

      July 16, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mark

    To quote Indiana Jones, "It belongs in a museum!" Or, in this case, BE the museum.

    July 12, 2012 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jack

    We won't have an "Enterprise" so long as we have a socialist government.

    July 12, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • peter

      you're an ignorant a $ $

      July 12, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike McC

    Thanks, Jack, for your full understanding of how defense spending and the Federal government works. I feel enlightened. Who knew the most conservative Republican controlled congress in US history, which controls all spending bills, were full of socialists.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Mike I really did not realize this was a political debate. But if your socialists remark is aimed at anybody other than our President then you are very wrong and for many years now he has admitted that on early reports I have seen. Just a reminder most on this site concerning the Big E are all prior or current military so we are all on the same team. Meaning it is quiet normal for one to be concerned about a great ship such as the USS Entrprise. I served aboard her and loved every minute of it. I am the same age as the Big E and it will be sad to see her go but I know the end must come and we must move into the next era to protect this great country of ours. God bless.

      July 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Valkyrie

    I sailed with her in 1990 while deployed with my helicopter squadron, HS-17. She is a legendary ship and it was an honor to serve aboard her.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. PJ

    The Gerald R. Ford- putting fear into the hearts of airport tarmac workers and stewardesses the World over. Don't think we got a Band-Aid that big...

    July 12, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chuck

    A name is just that, a name. Kudos to all the enterprises and their crews but, I will say the American sea power is about all the great men and women that serve in the navy. Call our ship USS Bozo and we will still kick a__!

    July 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joel

    There is always another letter in the alphabet!

    July 12, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. matt c

    the floating csca (controlled surface contamination area) is what we called it when i was in

    July 13, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. GEEPEE

    Sad but it has had it's day... I'm sure if something were to go wrong with the Enterprise all those complaining about it's decommissioning would be complaining about why such an old ship was allowed to continue sailing and carrying thousands of our troops... Good thing there are knowledgeable people making such decisions, we as the general public would screw things up so bad lol

    July 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Praetorian

    I call dibs on the R-390 radio receivers! They were top secret and state of th3 art back when she was commissioned, and hold up nicely even now. You listening, Navy Department?

    July 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bdnbach

    The Enterprise and all other carriers are designed or a 40 year life. Through good maintenance, good overhauls, and great, often heroic effort by the sailors on board the Enterprise went 10 years past that. A lot to ask ffor the old gal. Also, the Enterprise was a one of a kind design to "prove the concept" of a nuclear carrier. Because it is unique, 8 reactors vs. the two on a Nimitz class, the maintenance costs were higher. Yes, it is time to put the old girl to rest.

    I think the third Ford class should be the "new" Enterprise in honor of all those who served on the previous great vessels bearing that name.

    July 15, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. CVN Guy

    Enterprise is at the end of her useful life, Obama or no. He shouldn't be blamed for that, it would be really expensive to keep her around until the Ford arrives (partial refueling, overhaul, etc.). If you want to blame him for something, complain about the fact that he's stretched out the interval between carriers to the point that they're no longer built in series. Now the various workers, after completing their specialized tasks, are laid off because it would cost the company too much to keep them on staff idle until they are needed for the next ship. Then they later have to be hired back and brought back up to proficiency (or if they're new workers to learn the techniques since the older guys who would mentor them are gone). Then the whole thing repeats for the next carrier. This adds billions to the cost of each ship.

    July 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Yes, I hate this about defense spending. I remember back when I worked on the B2 bomber. The projected cost for 6 wings was 78 billion. Then they cut the number procured to 21 and the costs barely budged. You are paying for the people and the facilities to make the things, all the design work etc. And now we are still using B52s... (A tribute to the people who designed those! long before I was born and I'm close to 50!)

      July 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CVN Guy

    It would be nice to name the next carrier Enterprise, but it's more likely the same thing will happen that has been going on for decades. Congress or the Administration will direct the Secretary of the Navy to name the ship after some politician, usually an ex-Congressman. Since 1966, only only one carrier (the Nimitz) has not been named for a politician.

    July 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Denise

    I am very sad to see the Big E in her last days. My cousin was one of her Captains...I was aboard her on a dependents day celebration, and it was one of the more fantastic days in my life. That was 26 years ago. Hand shake to all that served on her decks in all capacities....and thanks Skip.....

    July 16, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
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