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USS America (CV-66) Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier

The USS America was part of the Kitty Hawk-class of carriers, some of the largest conventionally-powered naval vessels of their time.

 Updated: 12/6/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The USS America (CV-66 though initially designated as CVA-66) was a conventionally-powered aircraft carrier that served the United States Navy through the Cold War and beyond, officially being decommissioned in 1996. She was of the Kitty Hawk-class of aircraft carriers which were eventually replaced by the powerful breed of nuclear-powered types in the USS Nimitz mold. The America fought on for America in her war with Vietnam, served as a deterrent in the Persian Gulf and Lebanon and took part in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. All her years of service sadly culminated in her use as a target in 2005. Her name was officially struck from the Naval Vessel Register on August 9th, 1996.

Her design was of a traditional layout with a starboard island and the characteristic angled deck serving three catapults (one angled off port and two forward). The flight deck was serviced by four hangar elevators in total with one located on the port side and three on the starboard side, with one of these located aft of the island. The island was dominated by a communications and sensor mast with a further mast located just behind the island before the rear starboard-side hangar deck.

As aircraft carriers go, their power is truly made known by the fleet she can put into the air and the USS America was no exception. Her deck and lower hangars could hold, maintain and repair up to 79 aircraft of various makes and sizes including F-4 Phantoms, A-6 Intruders, A-7 Corsair IIs and SP-2 Neptunes in addition to anti-submarine and transport helicopters. Supported by her flotilla of fleet defenders and resupply ships, the USS America formed an important and vital cog to United States Navy operations covering the globe.

Defensively, the USS America was served by a variety of sensors and processing systems by way of the AN/SPS-48 and AN/SPS-49 air search radars. Her electronic countermeasures suite consisted of the AN/SLQ-32 built by Raytheon Company. Additionally, these systems were augmented by three Sea Sparrow (initially Terrier missile) surface-to-air missiles. This was further supported by 3 x 20mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon Systems) for anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense.

By 1967, on her second deployment out, the USS America was called into the Mediterranean as tensions rose between Israel and her Arab neighbors that erupted in the "Six Day War". Little in the way of action for the USS America crew was apparent until the USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli torpedo boats - apparently in error caused through poor communications - sending America's fighters and bombers scrambling off of her deck. 34 souls were lost with 75 injuries.

Her next major assignment saw her on post at Yankee Station in the Vietnam War. Her aircraft were used in anger to pound targets inland, disrupt infrastructure and provide combat air patrols as needed. She would be deployed to Vietnam a total of three times before the cessation of hostilities in 1973. Following the war, the USS America supported the evacuations related to the crisis in Lebanon before undertaking a variety of exercises and tests including NATO-sponsored gatherings. During the Vietnam War, USS America performed to mythical standards without the loss of any of her pilots. Her aircrews dropped over 11,000 tons of ordnance on Vietcong targets and flew over 10,500 sorties total.

USS America (CV-66) Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1965
Type: Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier
National Origin: United States
Ship Class: Kitty Hawk-class

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Complement (Crew): 3,306
Length: 1048 feet (319.43 meters)
Beam (Width): 248 feet (75.59 meters)
Draught (Height): 38 feet (11.58 meters)

Surface Displacement: 83,573 tons

Installed Power and Base Performance

Engine(s): 8 x Boilers with 4 x steam turbines developing 280,000 shaft horsepower to 4 x Shafts.

Surface Speed: 34 knots (39 mph)
Operational Range: 11,663 nautical miles (13,421 miles, 21,599 km)

Armament / Air Wing

3 x Mark 29 launchers for Sea Sparrow Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs).
3 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs)

Aircraft: 79 aircraft of various makes including Vought A-7 Corsair II, F-4 Phantom and F-8 crusader fighter-bombers, SP-2 Neptune anti-submarine aircraft, SH-3A Sea King helicopters.

Global Operators

United States

Ships-in-Class (4)

USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63); USS Constellation (CV-64); USS America (CV-66); USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67)

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