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Cold War: USS Enterprise (CVN-65)


Cold War: USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 1998

Photograph Courtesy of the US Navy

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company
  • Laid Down: February 4, 1958
  • Launched: September 24, 1960
  • Commissioned: November 25, 1961
  • Fate: In Service

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - Specifications

  • Displacement: 94,781 tons
  • Length: 1,123 ft.
  • Beam: 132.8 ft. (waterline)
  • Draft: 39 ft.
  • Propulsion: 8 × Westinghouse A2W nuclear reactors
  • Speed: 33.6 knots
  • Range: Unlimited
  • Complement: 5,828 men

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - Armament

  • 2 × NATO Sea Sparrow launchers, 2 × 20 mm Phalanx CIWS mounts, 2 × RAM launchers


  • 70-90 aircraft

  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - Design & Construction:

    The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company on February 4, 1958. The eighth ship of the US Navy to carry the name Enterprise, CVN-65 inherited it from the CV-6 which had seen extensive action in the Pacific during World War II. The new Enterprise was intended as the lead vessel of a new class of six carriers. As work on Enterprise moved forward, costs quickly escalated and the decision was made to cancel the other five ships. Powered by eight A2W reactors, Enterprise was built to utilize a new phased array radar system. The incorporation of this system resulted in the ship's relatively unique square island.

    Sponsored by the wife of Secretary of the Navy William B. Franke, Enterprise was launched on September 24, 1960. Fitting out, Enterprise mounted three RIM-7 Sea Sparrow launchers for self-defense. Completed the following year, Enterprise was commissioned on November 25, 1961 with Captain Vincent P. de Poix in command. A revolutionary new ship, Enterprise was extensively tested after commissioning and routinely out-performed its conventional consorts. Completing sea trials, the carrier became flagship of Nuclear Task Force One and sailed with the nuclear-powered USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge. Commencing flight operations, Commander George C. Talley, Jr. became the first to land on Enterprise when he touched down in a Vought F-8 Crusader on January 17, 1962.

    USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - Early Service:

    Continuing training exercises, Enterprise aided in tracking Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn's Mercury space mission in February 1962 before hosting President John F. Kennedy in April. After completing its final acceptance trials off the Virginia Capes later that month, Enterprise saw service in the Atlantic before being ordered to the Mediterranean in August. Returning in October, the carrier was dispatched south to aid in the naval quarantine of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Conducting extensive operations in the region, Enterprise returned to Norfolk when the crisis abated. After spending the holidays in port, the carrier departed on February 6, 1963 for a deployment to the Mediterranean. The next two years saw Enterprise largely operate in the Mediterranean with the exception of Operation Sea Orbit (July 31-October 3) during which the carrier sailed around the world with Long Beach and Bainbridge.

    USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - Vietnam War:

    With the end of Sea Orbit, Enterprise returned to Norfolk for a refueling and refit. Emerging the following year, the ship received orders to join the US Seventh Fleet in the Pacific for operations in support of the Vietnam War. Arriving on station, Enterprise launched its first strikes on December 2, 1965. The next four years saw Enterprise continue to operate off the coast of Southeast Asia. During this period, the carrier was briefly ordered north in January 1968 in response to the North Korean capture of USS Pueblo. The following January saw tragedy strike the ship when a MK-32 Zuni rocket mounted on a F-4 Phantom II exploded. Occurring on the flight deck, the explosion and resulting fire killed 27, wounded 314, and destroyed 15 aircraft. In the wake of the accident, Enterprise was required to put into Pearl Harbor for repairs.

    These were completed in April and Enterprise again was forced to operate off Korea following the North Korean downing of an EC-121 Warning Star aircraft. Returning to Southeast Asia, the carrier resumed strike missions before sailing for Norfolk later in the year. Spending much of 1970 undergoing a major overhaul, Enterprise finished sea trials in January 1971 and sailed for Vietnam. Assigned to Yankee Station, Enterprise's aircraft pounded North Vietnamese positions through the end of the year. In December, the carrier briefly served in the Bay of Bengal to act as a show of American strength during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Returning to the waters off Vietnam, Enterprise's planes took part in Operation Linebacker for much of 1972. After aiding in Operation Linebacker II in December, Enterprise ended missions against North Vietnam with the signing of the ceasefire in January 1973. Before leaving the area, Enterprise's air group conducted missions against targets in Laos beginning on January 28.

    USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - 1970s:

    Departing Southeast Asia, Enterprise sailed for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where it was altered to receive the new F-14 Tomcat. Remaining in the Pacific, Enterprise was the first carrier to utilize the new fighter. After providing disaster relief to Mauritius in after a typhoon in January 1975, the carrier returned to Southeast Asia later in the spring to provide support for the evacuation of Saigon. With naval aircraft flying cover, helicopters ferried US personnel and at-risk Vietnamese to American ships offshore. Remaining in the Pacific for much of the remainder of the decade, Enterprise arrived at Puget Sound in early 1979 for a large-scale overhaul. This saw dramatic modifications to the carrier's radar system and island, as well as other needed maintenance.

    USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - 1980s & 1990s:

    Emerging from the yard in 1982, Enterprise conducted three more deployments to the Pacific over the next four years. In 1986, the carrier transited the Suez Canal to support Operation El Dorado against Libya. Two years later, Enterprise played a key role in Operations Earnest Will and Praying Mantis. These saw the US Navy re-flag Kuwaiti oil tankers and American aircraft strike Iranian targets. After assisting efforts to suppress a coup in the Philippines, Enterprise arrived at Norfolk in March 1990 for a massive overhaul.

    The largest such undertaking in the history of the US Navy, the time in the yard saw Enterprise refueled, lengthened, and modernized. Lasting over four years, the project finally saw the "Big E" return to sea on September 27, 1994. As a result of the time in the yard, the carrier missed the Gulf War. Deploying to the Mediterranean in June 1996, Enterprise aided in enforcing no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq. Shifting to the Persian Gulf two years later, the carrier's consorts attacked Iraqi targets with cruise missiles that December as part of Operation Desert Fox. The next two years saw the carrier move between the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Persian Gulf.

    USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - 2000s:

    In 2001, Enterprise took part in joint training exercises with the Royal Navy before proceeding to the Persian Gulf. Completing its time in the region, the carrier had recently departed when news arrived of the September 11 attacks. Reversing course, Enterprise immediately returned to area to be in position to conduct any needed operations. The following month, Enterprise's aircraft flew over 700 missions against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan. Returning to Norfolk on November 10, Enterprise entered dry dock in January 2002 for a one-year refit. Between 2003 and 2007, the carrier conducted missions in Southwest Asia to aid American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    In April 2008, the aging carrier again entered the yard for an eighteen-month overhaul. As work progressed, costs quickly escalated and the work time increased. As the carrier was slated to be decommissioned in 2014, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, approached Congress and requested that Enterprise be retired early despite the fact that it would reduce US strength to ten carriers until 2015. This was approved in September 2009 and the ship's retirement was moved up to 2013. Departing the yard on April 1, 2010, Enterprise conducted trials and rejoined the fleet. Deploying to the Persian Gulf in January 2011, the carrier supported American operations in the region and aided in efforts against the Somali pirates. With the carrier's return to Norfolk in July 2011, the US Navy intends to use Enterprise for one more six-month deployment before its retirement.

    Selected Source

  • US Navy: USS Enterprise
  • DANFS: USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

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