Enterprise Class

Overview

Country: United States

When commissioned, on 25 November 1961, Enterprise CVAN-65 was the largest warship ever built and the most expensive. With costs reaching $445 million the class was not developed further.

It was America’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Enterprise increased the capacity and effectiveness of the United States Navy at a crucial time. Its range was measured in terms of years rather than miles. The cores, in its unique eight-reactor power plant, only required replacement every three years. Despite its huge size, the vessel had greater maneuverability than conventionally powered ships and it could travel faster for longer periods of time.

Operation Sea Orbit in 1964 involved Enterprise, the cruiser Long Beach and frigate Bainbridge and demonstrated the capabilities of the US Navy’s first nuclear task force. During its circumnavigation of the world in 64 days, the fleet highlighted the fact that it could operate anywhere at short notice; totally independent of land bases or supply ships.

Enterprise was built to a modified Forrestal class design. The deck arrangement followed a similar pattern to that found on Kitty Hawk and Constellation. It possessed a distinctive square island structure with a unique conical dome covered by ECM antennas. As a cost cutting measure Enterprise initially had no armament. In 1966 however it was fitted with a basic point missile defense system. The vessel has been modernised several times during its service history.

Enterprise was involved with the quarantine surrounding Cuba in 1962. Between May 1963 and July 1964 it served in the Mediterranean and from November 1965 in the Pacific. During the Vietnam War air attacks on land targets were flown from its deck and in April 1975 it participated in the evacuation of Saigon. During the 1970s and 1980s Enterprise was deployed to the Western Pacific.

One of a kind Enterprise remains the longest aircraft carrier in the world. It continues in service today (2006).

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