Defense Media Network

Enterprise Returns Home from Final Deployment

The Navy's largest, oldest ship and its first nuclear carrier prepares for decommissioning

The USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, has come home for good after her 22nd overseas deployment, this time to the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation – the Middle East and Mediterranean. She returned to her homeport Nov. 4, 2012, after completing her 25th and final deployment.

At 51 years of age, she is the longest currently serving ship in the fleet. Her decommissioning and Inactivation ceremony is planned for Dec. 1, 2012. The Inactivation Ceremony will be the last official and public event for the “Big E.” After the ceremony, her eight nuclear reactors will be removed and the ship dismantled.

Enterprise bone in her teeth

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) underway as flagship of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. This was the last deployment for the Navy’s first nuclear-powered supercarrier. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman

She steamed 80,968 miles during her 238-day deployment. Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW-1) flew more than 8,000 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and exercises in the 5th and 6th Fleet AORs.

“This has not been a victory lap for Enterprise by any means,” said Rear Adm. Ted Carter, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group commander. “This has been a full-on combat operation. We’ve seen the full spectrum of Navy operations on this deployment. It’s been a business as usual kind of deployment.”

The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group included Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, the Mayport, Fla.-based guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and three Norfolk-based guided missile destroyers: USS Porter, (DDG 78) USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS James E. Williams (DDG 95). Also returning were the aviation squadrons of her air wing, Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW 1), which includes of F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from Oceana Naval Air Station (VFA-211 “Checkmates,” VFA-11 “Red Rippers,” and VMFA-251 “Thunderbolts”) ; the electronic attack squadron VAQ-137 “Rooks,” flying the EA-6B Prowler; the carrier airborne early warning squadron VAW-123 “Screwtops,” Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 11(HS-11), the “Dragonslayers;” and a detachment of C-2A Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft from the VRC-40 “Rawhides.”

Rhinos, last cruise of the Big E

Two F/A-18 Super Hornets of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) -1 fly above the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Josh Hammond

Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years,” said Capt. William C. Hamilton, commanding officer of Enterprise when she departed for the final deployment. “The ship and crew’s performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant.”

From the very beginning, the ship has done things in a big way.

At 1,123 feet in length, the 94,000-ton Enterprise remained the largest ship in the Navy up until her decommissioning.

Enterprise was, and in some ways still is, the ultimate expression of a concept that first came into being in the U.S. Navy in 1922 with the conversion of the 15-knot collier Jupiter into the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Langley. The Enterprise, at 30-plus knots, with unlimited endurance, and operating supersonic jet aircraft, came just 40 years after Langley.  And here she is … another 50 years later.

Throughout her storied history, Enterprise has played a role, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to Vietnam to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and as one of the first Navy assets deployed following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...