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USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier (1977)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 5/9/2013

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN-69 aircraft carrier has taken part in several notable American-led actions since her commissioning in 1977.

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The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is the second of ten vessels in the Nimitz-class group of American nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently in service with the United States Navy. At the time of her inception, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower became the second carrier of the Nimitz-class following the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and preceding the remaining vessels - her sisters (beyond the USS Nimitz) include the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), the USS George Washington (CVN-73), the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77). Collectively, they represent the most powerful group of surface ships anywhere in the world and provide the United States Navy with an unparalleled advantage when responding to threats against US allies and interests. After the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was ordered by the US government (originally ordered as the "USS Eisenhower") her construction was charged to Newport News Shipbuilding of Virginia. Her keel was laid down on August 15th, 1970 and the vessel was subsequently launched on October 11th, 1975. She was formally commissioned on October 18th, 1977 and assigned the home port of Naval Station (NS) Norfolk in Virginia along America's eastern coast. She fights under the motto of "I Like Ike" and sports a five-star insignia showcasing a forward view of the vessel at center. During her active tenure, the Eisenhower has been the recipient of many USN awards for excellent efficiency and exemplary participation during active campaigns concerning the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is named after former US President and famous World War 2 Allied Commander (General) Dwight David Eisenhower - nicknamed "Ike". Eisenhower served as US president during the post-World War 2 years between 1953 and 1961 and became the 34th President of the United States. During his farewell speech on January 17th, 1961, the outgoing president warned America of the dangers of misplaced power and military spending in the "Military Industrial Complex". Ironically, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carried with it a price tag in the billions of dollars upon her completion and subsequent service life upgrades.

Overall, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower followed the design pattern as set by the lead USS Nimitz carrier. Her top deck (flight deck) was primarily flat for the storage, launching and retrieval of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft of various types with the exception being the island superstructure offset to the starboard side just aft of amidships. The island was home to a bevy of communications and sensory equipment as well as the bridge and flight control. A mast was set atop the island with a shorter mast installed aft of the island. There were four large powered hangar elevators granted to the flight deck which allowed a constant stream of aircraft to be launched and recovered during combat and exercises. The retrieval area was the portion of the flight deck angled (9 degrees from centerline) from starboard-stern to portside-bow which allowed the required clearance for inbound aircraft from the jutting island superstructure. Aircraft were launched via four steam-powered catapults - two fitted near the foredeck with the remainder two along the portside. Utilizing this configuration (known as CATOBAR = "Catapult-Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery"), up to four aircraft could be launched at any one time while a single aircraft could be retrieved (assisted by four arrestor wires). The two portside catapult lines intersected at their launch ends, meaning the two aircraft could not be launched simultaneously (unlike the foredeck catapult launch lines which are relatively parallel to one another). The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower displaces at 114,000 tons and features a running length (from bow to stern) of 1,092 feet with a beam of 252 feet and a draught of 37 feet. Sensors and processing are handled via a collection of systems including several air search radars, target acquisition radar, traffic control radar, navigational aids and landing assistance radars. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower's complement is made up of 3,200 officers, marines and sailors with a further 2,480 personnel making up her air wing for a grand total of 5,680 persons on board.

As a nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was completed with 2 x Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors paired to 4 x steam turbines developing a listed 260,000 shaft horsepower and driving 4 x propeller shafts under the stern. This arrangement supplies the vessel with a top ocean-going speed of 30 knots in ideal conditions. Due to the nature of nuclear energy, the vessel is granted essentially unlimited range with each reactor showcasing a lifespan of several decades or more before needing replacement. As such, nuclear-powered American carriers can - and often are - called to waters all over the globe.

Vessels such as the large USS Dwight D. Eisenhower rely on a network of supporting surface vessels for self-defense from land and sea-based attacks (including enemy submarines). However, as a final line of defense, the Eisenhower is outfitted with the "Sea Sparrow" surface-to-air, medium-range missiles (navalized, ground-based version of the successful Sparrow air-to-air missile). Additionally, three digitally-controlled 20mm Phalanx rotary gun systems are fitted for close-in defense and these can be substituted for the RIM-116 series "Rolling Airframe Missile" launcher. The USS Eisenhower also features an onboard electronic countermeasures suite that includes the SLQ-32A(V)4 system and the SLQ-25A series "Nixie" torpedo decoy. As a final point-defense measure, the vessel is protected in up to 64mm of armor. All told, an enemy aircraft or missile would have to successfully navigate the network of support vessels, accompanying air wing and the Eisenhower's point defense capabilities before landing a successful hit on the carrier.

The air wing of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower consists of 85 to 90 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The inventory consists of her air defense fighters (which double as strike fighters), specialized warfare aircraft, transports and helicopters. During her early decades of service, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower stocked the famous Grumman F-14 "Tomcat" swing-wing interceptor until the type was formally retired by the USN and replaced by the multi-role F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18C variant is the principle F/A-18 fighter currently utilized and these are further complemented by the two-seat F/A-18 Super Hornet E- and F-models. The Grumman E-2 Hawkeye continues to provide Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWAC) functions and the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk (navalized variant of the venerable UH-60 Black Hawk) enables vertical take-off and landing while promoting anti-ship/anti-submarine facilities as well as search and rescue of downed airmen. The C-2 Greyhound family of aircraft supplies Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD).


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Specifications for the
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier


Country of Origin: United States
Initial Year of Service: 1977
Operators: United States


Crew: 5,680


Length: 1092 ft (332.84 m)
Beam: 252 ft (76.81 m)
Draught: 37 ft (11.28 m)
Displacement: 114,000 tons


Machinery: 2 x Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors with 4 x steam turbines developing 260,000 shaft horsepower and driving 2 x shafts.

Surface Speed: 30 kts (35 mph)
Range: Essentially Unlimited


Armament:
2 x Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers
2 x RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launchers (replacing 3 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems - CIWS).


Air Arm: 85 to 90 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft of various types for air defense, strike, search and rescue, anti-ship/anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning.


Ship Class: Nimitz-class
Number-in-Class: 10
Ships-in-Class: USS Nimitz (CVN 69); USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69); USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70); USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71); USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72); USS George Washington (CVN 73); USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74); USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76); USS George W. Bush (CVN 77)