USS Enterprise (1960)

US Navy FlagNuclear-powered Fleet Aircraft carriers

The Nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (1960), probably the most famous ship of the contemporary US Navy, was also in its time the largest ship in the world, exceeded only by the Super-tankers with the oil crisis, and still remains the largest warship ever built. It follows the nuclear propulsion experiments of USS nautilus (1957), USS Long Beach cruiser (1959). It was therefore the first nuclear aircraft carrier in the world. Technically, however, it followed the logical and evolutionary sequence of the Kitty Hawk and Forrestal, but was also equipped with a double ballast hull containing aviation fuel and sea water, and its dimensions could accommodate the most large modern air park (composed mainly of jets) never seen. It was, however, scarcely heavier than the last major Japanese aircraft carrier of 1945, the Shinano. He received a combination of the latest radars, including the SPS 32 giving him his impressive radome. It was started at Newport News in February 1958, launched in 1960 and accepted into service in November 1961. At that time, it completed the US as the dominant superpower on the naval plane. It was planned to equip the ship with Terrier missiles, but the latter, heavy and expensive was never mounted, and it will receive in 1967 Sea Sparrow.

1969 accident
USS Entreprise 1969 accident

The ships career included a participation in the Mercury program, serving as relay station for the capsule containing the Astronaut John Glenn during his flight of 1962, he was then assigned to the Mediterranean, then participated in the business of missiles of cuba, then returned to the Mediterranean and did with the TF1 (Task-Force One, also including Long Beach and Bainbridge) a world tour in 1964 (see below). The “Big E” was engaged in Viet-nâm, its aircraft carrying out missions of attack of Viet-Cong forces on Bien Hoa in 1965. In 1968 an accidental explosion of missile cost the life to 27 men but the fire was controlled. After reshuffles at Pearl Harbor he returned to Tonkin, operating with the TF71. He will make further trips until 1972 in this sector. In 1973 he underwent major work to receive the new F-14 Tomcat fighter. In 1975 he set up helicopters to rescue Saigon civilians from the arrival of the Khmer Rouge.


CVAN-65 returning from Hanoi, Vietnam 1975.

It implemented a central integrated ASCAC tactical system and satellite antennas in 1976. In addition to its Sea Sparrow it was equipped with three Phalanx rapid guns. In 1991, the Enterprise went through a major overhaul. He received new radars, a third Sea Sparrow launcher, a new NTDS, a TFCC, and the core of his reactor was replaced. Since then, the USS Enterprise (which inspired the Star Trek series) saw service in the Gulf, crossed the Suez Canal in 1986, participated in operations around the world, including Enduring Freedom against Iraq in 2002 , and served as a test bed to define the Nimitz, the next generation. It is planned to put it in reserve in 2014-2015.


A famous photo showing a Nuclear Power Task Force (USS Enterprise, Long Beach and Bainbridge) in the Mediterranean in 1964

USS Enterprise- Illustration
Author’s illustration of the USS Enterprise

Specifications (Origin):

Displacement: 71,277t, 89,084 tpc.
Dimensions: 350 x 80 x 11.3 m
Propulsion: 4 HP turbines, 8 A2W reactors, 4 propellers, 280,000 hp. and 32 knots max.
Crew: 3325 + 1891 + 71 (Off and Seamen, Air Staff, Marines)
Electronics: embedded Radars SPS-32, 33.
Weaponry: none, air group of 90-100 aircraft.

Ticonderoga class Cruisers (1981)
Leahy Class Cruisers

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