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Thread: Big E preps for final combat deployment

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    Big E preps for final combat deployment

    Big E preps for final combat deployment - Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Navy Times

    By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
    Posted : Wednesday Sep 22, 2010 11:00:05 EDT

    ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER ENTERPRISE — Sept. 24 marks 50 years since this ship’s launch and champagne christening, so its crew has been doing some back-of-the-envelope math: Just how many people — pilots, maintainers, aircraft handlers, nuclear engineers, boatswain’s mates, mess cranks, the lot — have served on Enterprise over its life?

    “Near as we can figure, it’s about a quarter of a million,” said the commanding officer, Capt. O.P. Honors. “That’s unlike any ship out there. It’s absolutely awesome.”

    Enterprise is beginning the end of a career brimming with those kinds of superlatives: The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which is also the Navy’s longest-serving active warship, which carries the most reactors ever put to sea — eight, two per screw, in the most complex such plant ever fielded — is working up for its 21st and final combat deployment. Then it will become the first U.S. nuclear carrier ever decommissioned.

    But Honors isn’t the custodian of a museum just yet, he said. Until Enterprise comes home for the last time, he said, it remains a capital warship that needs to be just as ready to fight as the fleet’s newest carrier, George H.W. Bush, which was docked one pier over in Norfolk Va., when Big E, with Navy Times tagging along, came back Sept. 9 from a six-week trip to sea.

    “We want to sprint to the finish line,” Honors said. “We do not want to limp across.”

    To make that happen, the Navy spent more than $613 million on two years’ worth of shipyard work for Enterprise, which officials hope will be the last in its tradition of budget- and schedule-busting upkeep. More superlatives there: From the first, Enterprise was so expensive it prompted the Navy to make the carriers America and John F. Kennedy conventionally powered, rather than nuclear as designed. Big E has absorbed billions of dollars in maintenance and upgrades ever since.

    So after its recent work, Enterprise is in the best possible shape for its swan song, Honors said, notwithstanding its ongoing need for certain kinds of special attention. Some pieces of gear onboard today are original to the Enterprise, and like the ship itself, remain the only examples of their kind.

    “The people who designed and built the equipment for this ship — they’ve been dead for 25 years,” Honors said. “When this ship was commissioned, I was 3 months old. Think of a car that was built 49 years ago, you’ve been driving it the whole time, and they only built one of them, and it was a technology demonstrator. There’s no store that we can go to. There’s no Pep Boys for the Enterprise.”
    The old-fashioned way

    If Enterprise needs extra skill and extra care below decks to keep going, the ship still fulfills its raison d’être, launching and recovering aircraft, as well as it ever has, crew members said.

    Enterprise handled 2,080 arrested landings during its six weeks underway this summer, said air boss Cmdr. Wesley Bannister, and for pilots and their aircraft, flying on and off the ship is no different from any other carrier. But features throughout the ship show the origins of their modern descendants on new ships like Bush: Enterprise has a narrow notch at the stern with less room to park aircraft and a much smaller primary flight control, and it retains the “horns” once used with its original bridle-style catapults.

    The ship also does not have enclosed “bubbles” at the bow or along the port deck edge, where shooters on Nimitz-class carriers launch aircraft. Shooter Lt. Zach LaPointe said he likes having the closer connections to his team.

    “It puts you right up there with everyone else,” he said. “If it’s raining and storming, you’re up there with the guys. If we’re in the Persian Gulf and it’s 150 degrees up there, you’re up there with the guys.”

    There’s also less room on the flight deck and in the hangar bay than on newer ships, which demands a higher level of skill and patience, said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) (AW/SW/EXW) Scott Bowman, who is in his second stint aboard.

    “It’s more challenging to move aircraft on here, so you have to use a lot more teamwork. But once you master it, it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I came back because I love this ship. But it’s a lot smaller than a Nimitz, so you’ve got to take full advantage of every little area you’re working in.”

    The biggest single hurdle for aircraft handlers is that Enterprise’s hangar bay splits into two sections, while Nimitz-class carriers have three, Bowman said. And although the various models of Navy and Marine F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets are smaller than many of the aircraft Enterprise has carried in its long career — from the F-14 Tomcat to the A-3 Skywarrior — they can still make for a tight squeeze.
    Life on a legend

    Enterprise has had so many alterations and additions that it can feel as much like a contemporary art sculpture as a warship, with clear seams in the metal all over the ship as evidence of many welders’ handiwork. Boxes, dials and other equipment carry red signs that say “retired in place,” meaning that, although they don’t work anymore, the Navy doesn’t think it’s worth the effort to fix them or even rip them out.

    And although any supercarrier is big and confusing at first, Enterprise has a distinct M.C. Escher quality, with spaces that can be reached only after baffling trial and error.

    “It definitely takes awhile to learn your way around at first, but you end up learning real quick because you’re walking around so much,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) Airman Josh Manes.

    Manes is one of hundreds of junior newcomers for whom Enterprise’s eccentricities are just a normal part of getting used to their first ships.

    “I’ve got nothing to compare it to, but so far, it’s not bad,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) Airman Apprentice Hillary Nimrichter.

    A saltier newcomer also gave Big E a thumbs up, having come from his own line of older ships. Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Hakeem Brobbey has moved helicopters aboard the amphibious ships Saipan, Nassau and Ponce, and he welcomes the extra space and different dynamics of working in Enterprise’s hangar bay. But it’s a qualified endorsement:

    “The food is better,” he said. “The gym sucks. But you have to adapt to different circumstances and make it work. You’ve got to get used to it. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”

    Built long before the era of personal fitness, the Enterprise didn’t get a dedicated gym until an overhaul in 1996, when workers added a kind of mezzanine space above the forward port side of the hangar bay. It’s nice, sailors said, but too small to handle the demand, and so exercise machines have sprouted up in batches wherever there’s empty space on the ship, including the starboard half of the admiral’s flag bridge.

    Master Chief Culinary Specialist (SW) Thaddeus Wright accepted Brobbey’s compliment about the food, but said that he and his sailors also have to put in extra effort to do their jobs in Enterprise’s comparatively small dining areas.

    “One of the challenging things is the amount of seating space that I’m limited to,” he said. “We need to have a constant churn of my [food service assistants] wiping off tables and making room for the next sailor to sit down.”
    The end of the line

    If Big Navy had its choice, Enterprise would not be setting its latest longevity records this month or mark 50 years since its commissioning on Nov. 25, 2011. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead has said he wants to get Big E out of the fleet as soon as possible. The Navy has asked Congress for an exemption to the law that mandates it field 11 aircraft carriers, to account for the time between when Enterprise leaves the fleet and the carrier Gerald R. Ford enters service, planned for 2015.

    With all this pressure to get rid of Enterprise, what will happen to it? Online petitioners and naval enthusiasts want the ship to become a museum, but Honors said that probably won’t happen.

    Once the Navy dismantles and recycles the ships’ reactors, there will be nothing left to turn into a museum, he said; virtually everything two decks below the hangar bay would have to be cut apart. Honors did mention that it might be possible to slice off Enterprise’s iconic island and use it as a memorial, but those decisions are above his paygrade, he said.

    “Fortunately, my job is not to inactivate the ship,” he said. “My job is to operate the ship until its work is done.”

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Enterprise also inspired a TV producer to name the space ship in his show as the "Enterprise." Gene Roddenberry named the iconic star ship "Enterprise" to commemorate the world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

    In turn, NASA named the world's first space shuttle "Enterprise" due to an overwhelming number of trekkies responding to the agency's naming competition.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Defense Professional Dreadnought's Avatar
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    IMO, Whatever they may decide to do with her, should befit America's most decorated warship. The Big E holds that title and chances are none will ever exceed it having 20 Battle Stars plus Citations.
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    Would hate to see it go the way of CV-6.

    I thought the Star Trek series ships were named from the WWII carriers....... Just checked the Wiki site. The names look mostly from WWII era warships. Don't recall WWII ships named Republic, Excalibur or Defiant.

    It's the Constitution class Starship. Here is the Wiki link.
    Constitution class starship
    * NCC-1017 Constellation - US Sloop of war
    * NCC-1371 Republic
    * NCC-1631 Intrepid - US Carrier
    * NCC-1664 Excalibur
    * NCC-1672 Exeter - Bristish Cruiser
    * NX-1700 Constitution - US 3 mast Frigate
    * NCC-1701 Enterprise - US Carrier
    * NCC-1702 Farragut - US Destroyer
    * NCC-1703 Lexington - US Carrier
    * NCC-1704 Yorktown - US Carrier
    * NCC-1707 Hood - Bristish BB
    * NCC-1709 Valiant - British BB
    * NCC-1711 Potemkin - Russian BB
    * NCC-1764 Defiant

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    Gotta love the way USN sailors talk about the challenges of working in small spaces, in a ship that is twice as big as any ship in any other navy in the world ... ;-).
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    Military Professional maximusslade's Avatar
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    LOL the guy obviously never served aboard a submarine.
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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    I hope this ship is preserved, even if they need to set it aside or restrict access for a while until it is declassified enough to show it all to the public
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
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    New Member MarineCorps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSWisconsin View Post
    I hope this ship is preserved, even if they need to set it aside or restrict access for a while until it is declassified enough to show it all to the public
    \

    I don't think classified stuff is the issue. The issue is 8 nuclear reactors that no one in their right mind is going to leave on a public museum ship. And those reactors have to come out somehow and if I'm reading the article right, it's not going to be pretty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    Enterprise also inspired a TV producer to name the space ship in his show as the "Enterprise." Gene Roddenberry named the iconic star ship "Enterprise" to commemorate the world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

    In turn, NASA named the world's first space shuttle "Enterprise" due to an overwhelming number of trekkies responding to the agency's naming competition.
    Too bad it never went to space though.....

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    Military Professional dundonrl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7thsfsniper View Post
    Too bad it never went to space though.....
    Originally, Enterprise had been intended to be refitted for orbital flight, which would have made it the second space shuttle to fly after Columbia.[2] However, during the construction of Columbia, details of the final design changed, particularly with regard to the weight of the fuselage and wings. Refitting Enterprise for spaceflight would have involved dismantling the orbiter and returning the sections to subcontractors across the country. As this was an expensive proposition, it was determined to be less costly to build Challenger around a body frame (STA-099) that had been created as a test article.[2] Similarly, Enterprise was considered for refit to replace Challenger after the latter was destroyed, but Endeavour was built from structural spares instead.

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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarineCorps View Post
    \

    I don't think classified stuff is the issue. The issue is 8 nuclear reactors that no one in their right mind is going to leave on a public museum ship. And those reactors have to come out somehow and if I'm reading the article right, it's not going to be pretty.
    As far as display of the reactors, they need to do the same steps that they would take to refuel them, except, not put any fuel back in - they could fill them with loaded concrete (mixed with radiation absorbing compounds). The neutron activated reactor casings would not be any more radioactive in a museum than they are on the ship in service (they don't irradiate the crew in service). The activated casings will cool down to background in decades - so the museum would be a good way to manage them.

    As far as classified, IIRC, they don't allow anyone without proper clearence to see the nuclear powerplants on USN ships.
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    Military Professional dundonrl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSWisconsin View Post
    As far as display of the reactors, they need to do the same steps that they would take to refuel them, except, not put any fuel back in - they could fill them with loaded concrete (mixed with radiation absorbing compounds). The neutron activated reactor casings would not be any more radioactive in a museum than they are on the ship in service (they don't irradiate the crew in service). The activated casings will cool down to background in decades - so the museum would be a good way to manage them.

    As far as classified, IIRC, they don't allow anyone without proper clearence to see the nuclear powerplants on USN ships.
    Well, they have an idea on what to do to make a nuclear powered ship into a museum, since the worlds first nuclear powered vessel has been a museum for a long time, the USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571).. Having never visited it (the museum was closed when I visited Groton) I can only say what I've read, that they removed the nuclear reactor and I'd assume anything that dealt with the making of steam by that reactor before it was converted into a museum.. they COULD do the same thing with the Big E, but who knows what will happen..

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    For Ken NJ: That's a great list of Star Ships from the various Star Trek series and movies.

    But you over looked one. In a 1998 Episode of ST-TNG, the USS Yamato (originally a Japanese Battleship) is blown up.
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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dundonrl View Post
    Well, they have an idea on what to do to make a nuclear powered ship into a museum, since the worlds first nuclear powered vessel has been a museum for a long time, the USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571).. Having never visited it (the museum was closed when I visited Groton) I can only say what I've read, that they removed the nuclear reactor and I'd assume anything that dealt with the making of steam by that reactor before it was converted into a museum.. they COULD do the same thing with the Big E, but who knows what will happen..
    Good point, I hadn't thought of that -- but a SSN is a much smaller ship, and would allow a different approach - the reactor is not so far inside - and cutting a big hole to remove it would be a smaller operation - with the SSN pressure hull for structural support -and a single reactor, less damage to hull integreity with the reactor and heat exchangers gone. The smaller "boat" would probably not have the same type of structural issues such a big ship as a CVN would experience being "hollowed out".
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    They might leave a reactor or two in service - to provide "building power" for the ship, de-fuel and decom the others - they could even leave a couple screws working so the ship could move under her own power. -- I know, they won't really do it. But the reactors aren't really that scary, they only produce lots of radiation when they're running, and they are heavily shielded so they are very safe then. When they are idle, its like an armored citadel with a block of uranium locked inside - about as dangerous as a high voltage transformer. Reactor accidents happen when they are running, or rotting away in a reactor graveyard - not when they are idle and maintained. The activated steel casing will only emit gamma radiation - like xrays, that is easy to sheild against, and the sheilding doesn't deteriorate or get activated like neutron sheilding does - the gamma activity in activated steel dies down relatively quickly compared to long life isotopes like Uranium or Radium.
    Last edited by USSWisconsin; 04 Oct 10, at 02:55.
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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