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USS Enterprise Begins Final Overseas Deployment

First nuclear-powered carrier is Navy’s largest, oldest ship

USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – and at 51 years of age, its longest serving – has left homeport on her 22nd and final overseas deployment.

USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) (bottom), USS Long Beach (CGN 9) (center), and USS Bainbridge (DLGN 25) formed “Task Force 1” shown here July 31, 1964, during Operation Sea Orbit. The unit marked the first nuclear-powered task force and sailed 26,540 nautical miles (49,190 kilometers) around the world in 65 days. Accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment, Operation Sea Orbit demonstrated the capability of nuclear-powered surface ships. U.S. Navy photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Enterprise, affectionately known as the “Big E,” left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., March 11 as flagship of a carrier strike group for the 5th Fleet area of operations. At 1,123 feet in length, the 94,000-ton Enterprise was the world’s first “supercarrier,” and is still the largest ship in the U.S. Navy.

Earlier this year, sailors and Marines of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG 12) participated in three major exercises in preparation for deployment, including COMPTUEX, a composite training unit exercise; a Joint Task Force Exercise; and the naval amphibious exercise Bold Alligator 2012.

During these exercises, the ship and air wing team were faced with a variety of scenarios to help prepare them for deployment, including launching aircraft in support of ground operations and protecting the strike group from surface, submarine, and air threats.

Enterprise Comptuex

An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise was under way preparing for her 22nd and final deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman

“This is the only chance we get as a strike group to work and train together,” said Capt. Robert D. Boyer, deputy commander of CVW 1 [Carrier Air Wing 1]. “This was a big deal because it’s a tough and constant scenario and everybody across the board pulled together and made it come off really well.”

“This Strike Group is trained and ready for the full-spectrum of operations,” said Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter, commander, Enterprise CSG 12. “We’re ready to maintain freedom of the sea lanes, project power if directed to do so, and certainly perform a presence mission.”

“During my time as commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, I haven’t sent a strike group under way that is as ready as you are,” said Adm. John C. Harvey, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, while addressing the crew of Enterprise prior to the ship getting under way. “No one has done as much to get ready, worked as hard, and accomplished as much in every warfare area. You should be very proud of what you’re going to be doing once you get to where you’re going … where the business of the nation needs you.”

Enterprise 50th

Sailors spell out “E=MC2” on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ship’s commissioning. Enterprise is the first and oldest nuclear powered aircraft carrier still in service and was celebrating her 50th birthday on Nov. 25, 2011. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Alex R. Forster

The strike group includes Destroyer Squadron 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).

Flying from the Enterprise will be the eight squadrons of CVW 1, which includes F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from Oceana Naval Air Station, Virginia Beach, Va., (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 on-board delivery aircraft from the VRC-40 “Rawhides.”

Enterprise is headed to the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation – the Middle East and Mediterranean – as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe.

By

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

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-24254">

    Thanks for posting this history. My dad was a US Navy vet, and served in WWII, and Korea. He was stationed at Norfolk, and I was born in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in 1952. I love reading the history of the Navy. Thanks again.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-24281">

    Glad you liked it. It’s hard to believe there will soon be a U.S. Navy without a USS Enterprise. But then I’ve always believed carriers should carry names like they did in World War II and after – names like Lexington, Saratoga, Hornet, Yorktown, Midway, Coral Sea, Ranger, Constellation, Shangri La, Intrepid, and so on. I was encouraged that the Marine Corps’ new LHA was named the America, and of course their other big decks carry names with great tradition behind them. While I have the greatest respect for the statesmen whom carriers are named after today, I’m sorry that supercarriers don’t wear names that are more representative of the common heritage of Americans, and the battles we’ve fought.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-24506">

    Yhank you for the great pictures on this website. The Big E will never really retire as long as the U.S. exists. My Dad worked on the ships nuclear powered engines. It was one of his and our families proudest accomplishments!!!

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-27639">

    My brother is currently overseas on the U.S.S. Enterprise. I’m so glad I found this article. I was very interested in this article because I know this ship will make a mark in my brother’s life. Keep all of the men and women on your mind and pray for their safe return home soon!

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-27661">

    Your brother will be serving aboard a ship with a lot of history, on her final voyage. That’ll be something to tell the grandchildren about.