USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier
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).
After completing her requisite sea trials and commissioning (October 1977), the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was assigned to the US Atlantic Fleet where she served through a year-long crew training exercise. The vessel was then sent on a tour of the Mediterranean in early 1979 before returning to American shores in July. The following year, she was placed on station in the Persian Gulf during the Iran Hostage Crisis where she replaced the USS Nimitz after the botched hostage rescue (Operation Eagle Claw). As the accident worsened already heightened tensions in the region, the Eisenhower was kept on station for eight months before being relieved by the USS Independence (CVA-62). The Eisenhower was relocated back to Mediterranean waters once more.
The crew of the USS Eisenhower then undertook a joint exercise with Egyptian forces through the Bright Star exercises of 1983. Following the practice operations, her aircraft were used to reconnoiter enemy artillery positions in Lebanon for the United Nations peacekeeping force stationed there. In October of 1985, she was sent back stateside for a scheduled overhaul which lasted over one year. During this period, the vessel was outfitted with the 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) as well as Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles while her various defensive and communications suites were upgraded for modern threats and service. Her refit ended in 1987 to which she was brought back on station and, in the following year, sent back to the Mediterranean. Once again stateside in late 1988, she was made active in 1989 and sent in 1990 to the Mediterranean. She participated in D-Day celebrations off the coast of Normandy, France near Omaha Beach.
In 1990, Saddam Hussein sent his army - the fourth largest in the world at the time - to invade neighboring Kuwait and her vital supply of oil reserves. This forced a coalition of Western and Middle East nations to Kuwait's defense, prompting the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to take position in the Red Sea. After the political route failed in uprooting Hussein's forces, military action ensued as the power of the coalition was brought to bear on the outmatched Iraqi Air Force and Army through Operation Desert Storm. The Iraqi force was utterly defeated and forced into retreat back across the Kuwait-Iraq border. While the war was over, tensions continued to exist, requiring a large US presence in the region. The Eisenhower thusly served in Persian Gulf waters beginning in September of 1991 before returning home to Norfolk Shipyard in April of 1992 for an overhaul. The overhaul lasted from January 1993 to October to which the vessel was placed into operational service in November.
Following the Gulf War, the Eisenhower participated in Operation Uphold Democracy off the coast of Haiti. The operation lasted from September of 1994 to March 1995 and saw the successful reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Eisenhower was on station only for one month of the operation before being called to the Persian Gulf in October of 1994 in support of Operation Southern Watch - enforcing the "No Fly Zone" over southern Iraq. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower then underwent another overhaul beginning in July of 1995. The period lasted until January of 1997 to which she was sent out operationally in July 1998. This outing proved relatively short for the vessel was back in dock by December and ordered into another refit period until made ready for service for June the following year.
In early 2000, the Eisenhower was charged with enforcement of the southern No Fly Zone once again. A major overhaul began in 2001 that resulted in a vastly upgraded aircraft carrier. Her two nuclear reactors were replaced with all-new units to provide service for another 20 to 25 years. However, the vessel remained unavailable to the USN into 2005 to which the Eisenhower was then activated for operational service in late 2006. She then engaged in a tour of the Mediterranean before settling back in the Gulf where she conducted exercises off the coast of Iran following the capture of 15 British Navy personnel by the Iranian Navy. She was replaced in this role by the USS Nimitz in April of 2007. The British sailors were held for 13 days before being released by the Iranian government as a "gift to Britanl".
In February of 2009, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed flagship of Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Arabian Sea (the body of water located between Somalia and India, south of Oman and the Persian Gulf). From there, she supported operations stemming from the coalition effort against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) following the events of 9/11 and the subsequent US-led invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) begun in 2003. Additional service against Somali pirating activities was also given while on station in the region. In July of 2009, the Eisenhower returned stateside for refit.
In January of 2010, Eisenhower was called back as flagship in Middle East waters. This outing lasted until July to which the Eisenhower was called back home. In June of 2012, the Eisenhower was sent on her most recent deployment and it is expected that the Eisenhower will provide its services until around 2020 to which the new Gerald R. Ford-class of supercarriers will have entered service. The Gerald R. Ford-class is currently made up of two named vessels - the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) - and one yet-unnamed vessel - the CVN-80. The CVN-80 is the vessel designated to replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in service with the United States carrier fleet.