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What is the USS Enterprise?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

The USS Enterprise is a United States Navy vessel formerly known as CVA (N)-65. It is the oldest active vessel in the Navy fleet and will remain so for several more years until its replacement is built. The USS Enterprise is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the only ship in her class--originally other vessels were to be built, but prohibitive costs prevented construction of subsequent vessels. In addition, the USS Enterprise is the only aircraft carrier to house more than two nuclear reactors--it has eight Westinghouse A2W reactors.

Launched in September of 1960, the USS Enterprise saw its first action in conflict during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Along with several other ships, the USS Enterprise served as a blockade ship in the vicinity of Cuba, but the crisis came to a conclusion shortly after the strict quarantine had been ordered by President John F. Kennedy. The ship became the first nuclear-powered vessel to engage in combat when aircraft were launched from her decks against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

The USS Enterprise was the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The USS Enterprise was the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

In 1969, a rocket that had been loaded on an F-4 Phantom on the deck of the USS Enterprise deck was unintentionally launched, which led to a fire that caused severe damage to the ship as well as casualties and injuries to personnel on board. The USS Enterprise proceeded to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for repairs, and was then sent back to Vietnam for active duty. The ship has seen action as recently as 2007 in the Persian Gulf, and it provided air support during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004.

The USS Enterprise has been an active commissioned ship for almost fifty years and will be the first nuclear-powered ship to be decommissioned by the United States. Efforts to speed up the decommissioning of the ship have picked up in recent years, but if the USS Enterprise is decommissioned earlier than scheduled in 2014, the Navy's fleet would be reduced to ten active vessels until the replacement, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is completed and launched in 2015.

The dimensions of the USS Enterprise are as follows: 1123 feet (342m) in length; 73,858 tons (67,002,850 kg) displacement standard, 92,325 tons (83,755,831 kg) loaded; top speed 33.6 knots (62.2 km/h); and the ship can carry approximately 5800 personnel. The ship entered the Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard in April 2008 for an 18-month stay, during which time it was overhauled and prepared for its final deployment before decommission.

Discussion Comments


Enterprise will not be the first nuclear powered ship to be decommissioned. The Virginia class cruisers and other older nuclear ships have been decommissioned in Bremerton over at least the past 15 years.

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    • The USS Enterprise was the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
      By: Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet
      The USS Enterprise was the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.