Her machinery included 8 x Babcock and Wilcox boilers feeding 4 x geared turbines developing 280,000 horsepower to 4 x shafts. This allowed the vessel to make headway at 35 knots in ideal conditions. Her dimensions included a running length of 1,063 feet, a beam of 252 feet, and a draught of 37 feet. Her complete crew complement numbered 5,540 personnel. Air search and surface search radars provided the needed situational awareness apart from her accompanying fleet of ships that surrounded the carrier.
For its first few months, Saratoga conducted various flights, steering, high speed runs, and gunnery tests. In August of 1956, she sailed for Guantanamo, Cuba for her shakedown cruise, returning to her homeport of Mayport, Florida - having passed all of the required bench marks and test specifications. On June 6th, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and members of his cabinet boarded Saratoga to observe operations onboard the ship. To show the speed of delivery inherent in the modern USN air wing, an operation was conducted featuring nonstop flight of two Vought F8U Crusader fighters arriving in three hours and twenty-eight minutes from the West Coast, having launched from USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31).
Saratoga departed Mayport for the Mediterranean and her first deployment was with the Sixth Fleet. On July 15th, 1958, amphibious units landed 1,800 U.S. Marines on the beach near Beirut, Lebanon to support the Lebanese government while aircraft from USS Saratoga and USS Essex (CV-9) flew air cover. The actions of the Marines on the ground supported by two carrier air wings flying numerous sorties led to no loss of American lives and resolution to the situation within a matter of days. During this action, Attack Squadron 34, flying Douglas A-4D Skyhawk fighters from Saratoga's air wing, was the first squadron deployed to the Sixth Fleet equipped with "Bullpup" missiles.
The Cold War was in full swing for in July of 1968. Saratoga departed Mayport for her ninth Mediterranean deployment. While underway, a Soviet surface force, and a November-class submarine, passed in close proximity while en route to Communist Cuba. Continuing on to the Azores, Saratoga was in contact with Kipelovo-based Soviet aircraft. The standard procedure was to launch the air CAP (Combat Air Patrol) and intercept bogie Soviet aircraft challenging them and ultimately force a course change or risk being shot down. The former was accomplished and the Soviet aircraft were escorted out of the carrier's vicinity.
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