In May of 1975, the first of the ten-planned nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carriers was commissioned to form the new backbone of the United States Navy (USN). The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) then joined the group as the ninth vessel when was ordered on December 8th, 1994. She saw her keel laid down on February 12th, 1998 by Northrop Grumman Newport News and was launched on March 4th, 2001 with formal commissioning on July 12th, 2003. Due to the ailing health of former President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), his wife Nancy became the ship's sponsoring agent.
USS Ronal Reagan maintains an active presence among the USN fleet as of this writing (2014) making her homeport at NAS North Island Coronado in California. She fights under the motto of "Peace Through Strength" and is affectionately known under the nickname of "Gipper" after President Reagan himself. Ronald Reagan - the former actor - had earned the nickname from his film "Knute Rockne" where he played George "The Gipper" Gipp.
USS Ronald Reagan follows the same design lines and ocean-going capabilities established in the Nimitz-class during the 1970s. She has a nearly all-flat flight deck with a starboard side island superstructure which is set slightly aft of amidships. The primary landing area for fixed-wing aircraft is the angled section of runway running from starboard-stern to portside-bow. Four hangar elevators provide the necessary access from below with three elevators featured along the starboard side and one along port. There are a total of four steam catapults arranged about her design which allows for the near-simultaneous launching of four aircraft (the two catapults at portside nearly intersect which delay launching of one aircraft over another). Two catapults are featured over the forecastle and two along the portside of the vessel. The Reagan also can launch and retrieve helicopters without issue including special forces types. Dimensions of the vessel include a running length of 1,092 feet, a beam of 252 feet, and a draught of 37 feet. The whole crew complement numbers 3,200 personnel and includes all manner of levels - officers, enlisted, security, etc... The air wing comprises an additional 2,480 personnel for a grand total of 5,680 souls onboard at any one time - essentially a floating small American town.
As with all of the Nimitz-class, Reagan is outfitted with a nuclear reactor propulsion system. This is arranged as 2 x Westinghouse A4W series reactors coupled to 4 x steam turbines driving 4 x shafts. Total output power becomes 260,000 shaft horsepower supplying the ship with a maximum speed of over 30 knots. Since the power supply is nuclear-based, her range is essentially unlimited and the lifespan of the reactors is stated around 20 to 25 years before needing replacement. The problem then becomes disposal of the radioactive waste once the reactor has reached its usefulness.
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