Connie’s Escort Service hard at work, 32 years ago today

In a departure from our standard Warship Wednesday format, here we see an aerial port beam view of the Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) in her prime as crew members form the Battle E awards for excellence on the flight deck of the ship, 1 August 1986. Among these is the Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award for an 18-month period. She is pictured off the West Coast just a month before she started a short two-month NorPac cruise, Capt. Melvin David Munsinger, USN, in command.

National Archives and Records Administration photo, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6429186 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6429186

About half of her airwing is on deck, and it is a masterpiece of 1980s Red Storm Rising-style carrier warfare.

Forward you can see at least 17 F/A-18A/B Hornets from VF-A-113 and VFA-25 nestled around her starboard Sea Sparrow launcher. Next, are followed a half-dozen S-3A Vikings from VS-37, a collection of 16 KA-6D/EA-6B/A-6Es from VA-196 and VAQ-139, three E-3 Hawkeyes from VAW-113 aft her the island, along with a pair of big ole beautiful SH-3 Sea Kings from the “Eighballers” of HS-8. The huge delta-wing fighters, of course, are the F-14A Tomcats with their variable geometric wings in their closed position, from VF-21 and VF-154. All are of Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) which deployed on Connie during Vietnam as well as five times between Feb. 1985 and Oct. 1989 before chopping to USS Independence.

The above was taken the year before Connie was sent to help support Operation Earnest Will, the 14-months of nail-biting that came with escorting of re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf as a result of Iranian attacks against international shipping with assets from the Pacific’s Third and Seventh Fleets and the Mediterranean-based Sixth Fleet. This was known by the crew as “Connie’s 24-hour Escort Service” (NSFW).

Connie was decommissioned 7 August 2003 and struck later the same year. She arrived in Brownsville on 16 January 2015 for dismantling and has been going to pieces slowly ever since.

CVW-14 was deactivated effective 31 March 2017, a process which started back in 2011.

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