John F Kennedy Class


Country: United States

Named in honour of the 35th president of the United States, assassinated on 22nd November 1963, the USS John F. Kennedy is the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier to be built for the US Navy. The Kennedy was originally intended to become the fourth Kitty Hawk class carrier, but “Big John” as it is nicknamed, underwent extensive modification during construction and forms a class of its own. The ship was also to have been nuclear-powered but, for financial reasons, it was converted to conventional propulsion after construction had commenced. Kennedy’s keel was laid on 22nd October 1964, and, on 27 May 1967, it was christened by the late President’s nine-year old daughter, Caroline. After considerable delay, the aircraft carrier eventually entered service on 7th September 1968. When the Kennedy was commissioned it received the designation CVA-67, appropriate for a ship operating purely in the air combat role. In the 1970s, however, it was given an anti-submarine capability and its designation was changed to CV-67. During this time the ship was also upgraded to handle aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat and the S-3 Viking. In its first years the Kennedy won several awards for efficiency, but on 22 November 1975, while on exercises off the coast of Sicily, it collided with, and severely damaged, the cruiser, USS Belknap (CG-26). Thereafter, “Big John” was also informally known as the “Can Opener”. In 1978 the carrier returned to the United States and underwent a year-long overhaul.

The Kennedy was stationed for much of the 1970s in the Mediterranean, in response to the steadily deteriorating situation in the Middle East. In 1983, it sailed to the Lebanon as that country descended into civil war; and spent the rest of the year patrolling the region. The carrier left the Middle East in 1984 and returned to the United States for a second extensive overhaul and equipment upgrades. In July 1986 the Kennedy participated in the International Naval Review to help mark the Rededication of the Statue of Liberty, before sailing, once again, to the Mediterranean in August. The Kennedy was deployed to the Middle East in August 1988, and it was during this voyage that F-14 Tomcats from the carrier shot down a pair of Libyan MiG-23 “Flogger E” fighter bombers that had approached it in a threatening manner. In August 1990 the carrier was mobilised to participate in Operation Desert Shield, becoming the flagship of the Red Sea Battle Force, and on 16 January 1991 its aircraft commenced operations against Iraqi forces as part of Operation DESERT STORM. During the operation the Kennedy launched 114 air-strikes and over 2,800 sorties were flown in which some 3.5 million pounds of ordnance were delivered. With the cease-fire in Iraq in February 1991, the carrier was relieved, arriving home at the end of March. Transferred to the Naval Reserve Force in 1995, the Kennedy returned to the active fleet in October 2000 but was scheduled for retirement in mid-2005. At the time of writing (2006) the ship is still in service

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