The USS Enterprise was scrapped

Farewell to the "Enterprise"

The first nuclear aircraft carrier is retired after 51 years. A journey into the past and "future" of the "Enterprise".

On the morning of January 14, 1969, heavy explosions tore apart the silence over the ocean off the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Fat black clouds of smoke rise into the hazy gray-blue sky. There is a blaze of fire on the deck of a huge gray ship. It's an aircraft carrier, bombs and missiles explode on it, tearing apart men and planes. It's like a war, the ship is threatened with sinking. But the carrier survived badly damaged. It's called "Enterprise".


25 crew members perished at the time. Jet exhaust from a plane taking off had detonated an air-to-ground missile on a parked jet, causing more bombs and planes to go off on deck. The USS Enterprise has been repaired. But now it is finally over with that ship that bears the most famous of all ship names, the naming of which even suggests something among seafaring laymen: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the oldest active ship in the US Navy and the longest warship in the world, will be launched on Saturday afternoon in the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Port ceremoniously decommissioned after 51 years.

More than 15,000 people are expected, all former crew members have been invited. US President Barack Obama could stop by. And someone else has announced himself: Captain James Tiberius Kirk, according to the "official" dramaturgy of the science fiction saga "Star Trek", Commander of the spaceship "Enterprise" on its historic five-year mission from 2264 to 2269.

Okay, Kirk comes in the form of his current cast member, William Shatner, of course. The Canadian-born actor is already 81 and, according to his agent, is supposed to give a "short speech" at the farewell ceremony. It is quite possible that not only the last commander of the current Enterprise, Captain William C. Hamilton, Jr. , a trained marine pilot from Alabama, gives goose bumps.


The 342 meter long ship with its displacement of around 95,000 tons and a total of around 5500 crew members and flight personnel came back from its last mission in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean at the beginning of November.It is supposed to stay in Norfolk for a few months to clean up and will probably be removed from the naval list in March deleted, so retired. It is then transferred to a shipyard in nearby Newport News, where it is deactivated in a process that takes around four years: All tanks are emptied, pollutants are removed, the eight (!) Nuclear reactors are dismantled and most of it is slaughtered.

Then the Enterprise, which will be practically an empty shell, is towed to Puget Sound, a ship graveyard on the Pacific coast in Washington State. There are plans to exhibit at least the "island", as the large bridge tower on the deck of a girder is called, for museum purposes somewhere.


When the Enterprise (officially: CVN-65, which stands for "Carrier Vessel Nuclear") was put into service in November 1961 after three and a half years of construction, it was the first nuclear-powered carrier. Today the USA still has ten nuclear carriers for the "Nimitz "-Class named after Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966), Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet during World War II.

The development of nuclear drives for ships began in the USA in the 1940s and was first applied to submarines, starting in 1954 with the "Nautilus". The first nuclear-powered surface ship was the Soviet icebreaker "Lenin" in 1957, followed in 1961 with the missile cruiser " Long Beach "and the Enterprise, the first nuclear surface warships.

Actually there should have been six enterprise-class ships, but the construction costs were so high in the end that they left it at one and the next few carriers (such as the "John F. Kennedy") were given conventional oil drives again for the time being. The construction cost was about $ 450 million, considering inflation that would be $ 3.4 billion today.

After all, the Enterprise was equipped with eight Westinghouse reactors (the Nimitz class has two per ship); With 280,000 hp, they gave it a speed of 33.6 knots (around 62 km / h), unheard of for such a large vehicle, with a practically unlimited range, most recently around 800,000 nautical miles or around 15 years running time with one filling. She was so fast that she could sometimes drive away from her escort ships (cruisers, destroyers) and therefore has "None Faster" as the ship's motto.

With 80 to 110 planes and a few helicopters on board (picture left), she saw the whole world and many conflicts. It was already used during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, when the US Navy put a blocking belt around the communist island. In 1963/64 she formed the first completely nuclear-powered combat group with the "Long Beach" and the destroyer "Bainbridge" and circled the world. From 1965 to 1975 she mostly took part in operations off Vietnam, and she flown countless air missions against targets there. When North Vietnamese troops stormed the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, in April 1975, Enterprise helicopters took part in the spectacular evacuation of the US embassy.

Quiet years followed, mainly in the Pacific, in April 1986 she was the first nuclear carrier to pass the Suez Canal and took part in the bombing raids on targets in Libya, with which the USA retaliated against attacks by Libyan terrorists in Germany. April 1988, Enterprise bombers sank several Iranian warships in the Persian Gulf when a sea / air battle broke out because of the Iranian mining of the Gulf.
In the 1990s, missions followed in the Adriatic to control the no-fly zones over Bosnia during the civil war and missions over Iraq, and after September 11, 2001, the Enterprise was one of the first ships in the Indian Ocean from which the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was led, and in the years that followed, this region of the sea and the Persian Gulf were the main areas of operation for the already aging Enterprise.

When a major overhaul began on Newport News in April 2008, it became apparent that it would be very expensive - it ended up being more than $ 660 million, 42 percent more than budgeted. That ushered in their end, it was decided to retire them by 2013. By the time she returned from her last trip in early November, she had taken part in actions against Somali pirates and the international intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011.

In all of these missions, she was basically never in danger. According to reports from the German media from 2007, which have never been officially confirmed, a German submarine once succeeded in "virtually" sinking it: During maneuvers in the Caribbean, the class 206 submarine broke through the destroyer escort of the Enterprise without being noticed A simulated torpedo fan was fired at the carrier; a photo allegedly taken through the submarine's periscope is circulating on the Internet.

Much about the Enterprise was special. As I said, at 342 meters with a maximum width of 78 meters it was the longest warship, but not the largest: The Nimitz girders are slightly shorter, but have higher displacement values ​​(100,000 to 105,000 tons compared to 95,000).


Some civilian ships are of course much larger, such as the container freighters of the Danish Emma Mærsk class (219,000 tonnes at 397 meters in length. And compared to the super tanker "Seawise Giant", built in Japan in 1979, even the Enterprise was almost a dinghy: the tanker, the largest The ship of history was 458 meters long and displaced up to 657,000 tons, but this size proved so impractical that it was scrapped in 2010. Historic battleships like the Japanese "Yamato" from WWII or the German "Bismarck" displaced 73,000 or 53,300 tons. Modern US destroyers such as those of the "Arleigh Burke" class displace about 8,000 to 10,000 tons, that is enough for a size comparison.


The Enterprise was the eighth ship of the US Navy with this name, which has several meanings (such as "company"), but is understood in these cases as "boldness". Its direct predecessor was a "Yorktown" -class carrier who was in the Pacific during World War II, including the Battle of Midway (June 1942) and the Philippine Sea (June 1944); the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December In 1941 the Enterprise was undiscovered nearby and launched fighters, becoming the most decorated US warship of the war and retired in 1947.