The USS Enterprise's Last Tour
After 51 years of service, the historic aircraft carrier is about to be decommissioned.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- Air & Space magazine, November 2012
U.S. Navy/Lt. Cmdr. Josh Hammond
When the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) sailed away from Norfolk, Virginia, on its maiden voyage in 1962, it was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and the eighth Enterprise in a long dynasty reaching back to the Revolutionary War. Its eight nuclear reactors, reported the Chicago Daily Defender, had an energy potential "as great as that of all the reactors in the free world."
The most recent Enterprise played a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, along with other ships in the Second Fleet, blockading shipments of military equipment to Cuba. During the height of the Vietnam War, nearly 100 aircraft were launched each day from the Enterprise, laden with explosives and bound for the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the carrier—headed home after a long deployment—steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom.
On December 1, 2012, the carrier will be inactivated, ending 51 years of service. See the gallery above for more about its history. Here, two F/A-18 Super Hornets fly past the Enterprise on its last deployment, on October 4, 2012.