Sad end to a heroic ship
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Oct. 2, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits back to its homeport of Norfolk, Va. Enterprise is returning from a deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, where the ship conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman & Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Atherton/Released)
Headed back home for decommissioning. At 51-years young, the Big E is the oldest nuclear powered ship afloat, the oldest commissioned warship in the fleet (the Constitution is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat, but is no longer an active warship capable of undertaking missions), and the second oldest aircraft carrier in operation anywhere in the world (the Indian Navy’s INS Viraat is two years older and the Brazilian São Paulo is two years younger).
The 95,000-ton ship is to be deactivated in Norfolk on December 1 and decommissioned once all reusable items are removed, Ensign Brynn Olson, the ship’s deputy public affairs officer, said Monday.
The ship will then be towed to Washington state for scrapping, Olson said. What the Enterprise will not become is a museum, she said, because removing its eight nuclear reactors will involve so much destruction that the ship could not be repaired to museum quality. “It would just be too expensive to put her back together,” Olson said. Newport News Shipbuilding will deactivate and de-fuel the ship after her decommissioning. The process is scheduled to begin in mid-2013 and be completed in 2015. Once the Navy dismantles and recycles the ship’s reactors, there will be very little left to turn into a museum; virtually everything two decks below the hangar bay would have to be cut apart. What remains of ex- Enterprise following 2015 is currently scheduled to be taken to Washington state for scrapping. It remains possible the ship’s island could be removed and used as a memorial.
Whether there will be a ninth USS Enterprise remains to be seen.