Saturday, December 1, 2012

Big E lives on!!

USS Enterprise CVN-65 inactivation ceremony

The big news at the inactivation ceremony was the announcement that the next Ford class carrier, CVN-80, will be called the USS Enterprise!

USS Enterprise CV-6 in 1939
There have been eight ships named USS Enterprise (and a few historic British ons of that name as well) but the last couple were clearly the most famous of the lot.

The first "Big E" was CV-6, the USS Enterprise of World War II fame. Planes from that Enterprise sunk two Japanese aircraft carriers at the decisive battle of Midway and the Big E served to the end of the war -- the only one of her class to survive. The battle honors of the USS Enterprise CV-6 were extensive -- 20 Battle Stars -- including taking part in three of the four big carrier-to-carrier battles of 1942.
With the USS Bainbridge and USS Long Beach in 1964

The Enterprise also took part in the two big carrier battles of 1944, the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, so basically the ship only missed one of ALL the carrier battles ever fought.

Attempts to preserve her as a memorial did not pan out and the ship was scrapped in 1958. This may have been for the better, in a way, because it freed up the name for use in the innovative ship to follow.

USS Enterprise CVN-65 reprises the famous photo while home-bound in 2012
The USS Enterprise CVN-65 had a big act to follow, and the ship managed to do it, as proven today when it was finally inactivated after an astonishing 51 years of service. A few warships of the past have served similarly long periods, but I don't think any, since the Age of Sail, have served as first-line battle fleet units for more than 50 years. It's a tribute to the flexibility of the modern CVN that it's so adaptable that it can still be a main force battle unit even as weapons evolve over 50 years.

Because of the nuclear reactors, there was never any serious consideration of preserving this edition of the USS Enterprise. Decommissioning the reactors literally requires dismantling most of the ship, so that was that for that idea.

The next USS Enterprise CVN-80, will be a Ford-class carrier. This class is similar in appearance to the Nimitz class CVNs but will have many improvements. It's scheduled to enter service in 2025, so there will, sadly, be a pretty long gap without an active USS Enterprise, but at least an end is in sight.

Artists depiction of the USS Gerald R. Ford. The next USS Enterprise will be similar

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