The nuclear powered aircraft carrier Enterprise is making its final voyage on March 11.
The "Big E" saw service in every major conflict over the last 50 years and is the longest combat ship in the world. Her top speed was close to 40 mph and she was crewed by nearly 6,000 sailors and airmen. Launched in 1960, the Enterprise will be "inactivated" due to its aging systems and inability to procure spare parts for much of its infrastructure. It is the second longest active ship in Navy history. Only the wooden-hulled frigate the USS Constitution has been on active service longer.
But while she sailed, Enterprise was an awesome weapons platform. In popular culture, the Enterprise was the ship used in the film "Top Gun."
The ship was originally intended to be in service for 25 years but was overhauled in 1979. After so many years, the maintenance problems it encounters have come to include "unknown unknowns," the AP said, citing Capt William Hamilton, the ship's commanding officer.
It has eight nuclear reactors, six more to maintain than any other US carrier, and frequently suffers breakdowns in critical air conditioning units and in the elevators that lift aircraft from the hangar bay to the flight deck, which it self sometimes also breaks down, the AP said.
"It's kind of like when you get older and you know it's harder to get out of the bed in the morning. It takes you a couple hours to kind of really get up and then you're fine. Well, it's the same sort of thing here with Enterprise," Hamilton was quoted as saying.
After the final voyage, a deactivation ceremony in Norfolk Virginia, to which President Barack Obama has been invited, is scheduled for Dec 1. In the summer of 2013, the ship is to be stripped of its nuclear fuel until 2015 before it is scrapped, according to the AP.
Farewell to a fine ship.