Following a humanitarian operation off of Vietnam and deployment near Korea after the assassination of its president, Kitty Hawk was called to the Arabian Sea during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Kitty Hawk received the Navy Expedition Medal for her actions. During 1979, Kitty Hawk appeared in the Hollywood motion picture "The Final Countdown" as a stand in for the USS Nimitz while at Pearl (Nimitz was still active in the Atlantic at the time). She later received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and Battle Efficiency "E" Award upon her return to San Diego. Additionally, Kitty Hawk and crew became recipients of the Navy Expeditionary Medal the Humanitarian Service Medal for her actions in rescuing Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.
In early January of 1982, Kitty Hawk was in Bremerton for an overhaul and upgrade. She was back at sea in 1984 and served as the flagship to Battle Group Bravo and spent over two months in the Arabia Sea. In March of 1984, she took part in the Team Spirit exercises in the Sea of Japan. A shadowing Soviet nuclear-attack submarine, the K-314, had been shadowing the group's performance for some time and managed to surface directly underneath the Kitty Hawk, causing hull damage to both. As a result, Kitty Hawk was sent to the Philippines to undergo repair before returning to port at San Diego. She was awarded yet another Battle Efficiency "E" Award for her service.
Back with Battle Group Bravo in July of 1985, Kitty Hawk earned more recognition for the level of quality concerning her operations - a direct testament to her crew and governing officers. Not one of her personnel was fatally injured during thousands of hours of activity, launching and recovering aircraft on a regular basis. From January 3rd, 1987, Kitty Hawk set sail for a six month world cruise. Upon return, she underwent an upgrade as part of the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) along the American east coast's Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, arriving there on July 3rd. She was made ready once more on August 2nd and additional awards followed including the Black "E". She joined the Argentine Naval Aviation in December of 1991 for exercises and rounded the Horn of South America in the process while en route back to San Diego. In November of 1992, Kitty Hawk was deployed to the west Pacific and spent over a week in support of US Marine forces in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope. In December, the vessel was called to the Persian Gulf to enforce the UN sanctions against Iraq and took part in attack operations against southern targets in January of 1993. From mid-1994 onwards, Kitty Hawk was deployed to Far East waters as a deterrent to North Korean actions. Her 18th deployment followed in October of 1996 to which she ended her journey back in San Diego to undergo another overhaul.
In 1998, the Kitty Hawk took over the USS Independence's duties as a forward-deployed aircraft carrier and was stationed out of Yokosuka, Japan. In March, Kitty Hawk returned to the Persian Gulf region to enforce repeated Iraqi violations of the southern No-Fly Zone. She then returned to Japan with relations-building stops in Australia and Thailand. More exercises followed including a joint operation with Singapore and Thailand. She became the first aircraft carrier to dock at Changi Pier in Singapore. Another joint exercise was completed with the navies of Australia and Canada as the Kitty Hawk celebrated 40 years of service, finally returning to Yokosuka on June 11th, 2001. In October, a pair of Russian aircraft flew over the carrier in a shallow pass, some 200 feet above, during an at-sea replenishment operation.
Following the terrorist attacks on America on September 11th, 2001, the Kitty Hawk was deployed to the Arabian Sea in support of actions concerning Operation Enduring Freedom in an effort to topple the terrorist-supporting Taliban government of Afghanistan. In 2003, Kitty Hawk was placed on readiness during the Global War on Terrorism which called her to Iraq once more, first to enforce the southern No-Fly Zone in Operation Southern Watch and then to support the American invasion of Iraq through Operation Iraqi Freedom. In March of 2008, Kitty Hawk completed her duties in Pacific waters and left Japan for the final time. The USS George Washington moved in to take her place.
The USS Kitty Hawk was removed from active US Naval service on January 31st, 2009 and officially decommissioned on May 12th, 2009. Of the four Kitty Hawk-class carriers - the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), USS Constellation (CV-64), the USS America (CV-66) and the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) - the Kitty Hawk herself was the first of the group to come online and the last to remain in service, also becoming the second longest serving US Navy vessel after the USS Constitution when the USS Independence was decommissioned in 1998. The USS Kitty Hawk was officially replaced in the US Navy inventory by the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the tenth and final addition to the powerful Nimitz supercarrier family.
The United States Navy intends on keeping the Kitty Hawk in reserve status up until 2015. Following commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Kitty Hawk's future is up in the air. Wilmington, North Carolina is the front runner for maintaining the carrier as a floating museum to stand next to the USS North Carolina battleship of World War 2.