USS Nimitz

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USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) at sea near San Diego, CA
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) off the coast of San Diego in July 2009
United States
Name: USS Nimitz
Namesake: FADM Chester W. Nimitz, USN
Ordered: 31 March 1967
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Cost: $1.0 billion (1975 dollars)[1]
Laid down: 22 June 1968
Launched: 13 May 1972
Commissioned: 3 May 1975
Reclassified: CVN-68
Homeport: Naval Base Kitsap
Motto: Teamwork, a Tradition
Nickname(s): "Old Salt"
Status: in active service, as of 2019
Badge: 150px
General characteristics
Class & type: Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 100,020 tonnes (110,250 short tons)[2]
  • Overall: 1,092 feet (332.8 m)
  • Waterline: 1,040 feet (317.0 m)
  • Overall: 252 ft (76.8 m)
  • Waterline: 134 ft (40.8 m)
  • Maximum navigational: 37 feet (11.3 m)
  • Limit: 41 feet (12.5 m)
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)[3]
Range: Unlimited distance; 20–25 years
  • Ship's company: 3,200
  • Air wing: 2,480
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
  • SLQ-32A(V)4 Countermeasures suite
  • SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasures
Armor: Classified
Aircraft carried: 90 fixed wing and helicopters

USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is a supercarrier of the United States Navy, and the lead ship of her class. One of the largest warships in the world, she was laid down, launched and commissioned as CVAN-68 but was redesignated CVN 68 (nuclear-powered multimission aircraft carrier) on 30 June 1975 as part of the fleet realignment.

The ship was named for World War II Pacific fleet commander Chester W. Nimitz, who was the navy’s third fleet admiral. Nimitz had her homeport at Naval Station Norfolk until 1987, when she was relocated to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Following her Refueling and Complex Overhaul in 2001, her homeport was changed to NAS North Island in San Diego, California. The home port of Nimitz was again moved to Naval Station Everett in 2012.

In January 2015 Nimitz changed homeport from Naval Station Everett to Naval Base Kitsap.[4]


Nimitz was authorized by Congress in fiscal year 1967 and Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. in Newport News, Virginia was awarded the $106.5 million (equivalent to $755.81 million today). The keel was laid down 22 June 1968. It was christened on 13 May 1972 by Catherine Nimitz Lay, the daughter of the late Admiral Nimitz. Nimitz was delivered to the Navy in 1975, and was commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk on 3 May 1975 by President Gerald Ford.[5]

  • October 1975 to December 1975 – Post Shakedown Availability
  • May 1977 to July 1977 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • October 1978 to January 1979 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • October 1980 to January 1981 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • April 1982 to June 1982 – Selected Restricted Availability – waist catapult bridle catcher removed.
  • June 1983 to July 1984 – Complex Overhaul – forward port sponson added; Mk-25 BPDM replaced with Mk-29; 3 CIWS added.
  • November 1985 to March 1986 – Selected Restricted Availability – forward port sponson changed/enlarged.
  • August 1987 to February 1988 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • August 1989 to March 1990 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • October 1991 to May 1992 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • December 1993 to January 1995 – Selected Restricted Availability – port bow catapult bridal removed.
  • June 1996 to January 1997 – Selected Restricted Availability
  • May 1998 to June 2001 – Refueling and Complex Overhaul – starboard bow catapult bridal removed; top two levels of the island replaced; new antenna mast; new radar tower; 2 RAM replace 1 CIWS/1 Mk-29 at forward port sponson/aft starboard sponson; 2 CIWS at island/stern removed.
  • February 2004 to August 2004 – Planned Incremental Availability – catwalk grating was replaced and flight deck resurfaced.
  • March 2006 to September 2006 – Planned Incremental Availability
  • July 2008 to January 2009 – Planned Incremental Availability
  • November 2010 to March 2012 - Planned Incremental Availability - 2 CIWS added to forward starboard sponson enlargement/new port stern sponson.

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group

Nimitz is part of Carrier Strike Group Eleven (CSG-11) with Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11) embarked, with Nimitz as the flagship of the strike group and the home of the commander of Destroyer Squadron 23.

Ships of DESRON-23

Squadrons of CVW-11

Service history


Nimitz (right) alongside HMS Ark Royal at Norfolk Naval Station in August 1978

USS Nimitz first deployed to the Mediterranean Sea on 7 July 1976 with Carrier Air Wing 8 embarked in company with the nuclear-powered cruisers USS South Carolina and USS California. In November 1976, Nimitz was awarded the Battle "E" from Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, for being the most efficient and foremost aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Fleet. The cruise was uneventful, and the carrier returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 7 February 1977.

A second uneventful Mediterranean cruise was conducted from 1 December 1977 to 20 July 1978. The third deployment began on 10 September 1979 to the Mediterranean. The ship moved to the Indian Ocean in response to the Iran hostage crisis in which the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, was overtaken and 52 hostages were held. Prior to this trip, the ship took part in the shooting of the 1980 film The Final Countdown, whose story was specifically set aboard the Nimitz. After four months on station, Operation Evening Light was launched from Nimitz's decks in an attempt to rescue the U.S. Embassy staff. The mission was aborted after a helicopter crashed at a refueling point in the Iranian desert. The ship returned home 26 May 1980, having spent 144 days at sea.


On 25 May 1981, a Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler assigned to Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) crashed on the flight deck, killing 14 crewmen and injuring 45 others.[7] The Prowler was fuel-critical after a "bolter" (missed approach), and its crash and the subsequent fire and explosions destroyed or damaged eleven other aircraft.[8] Despite having no connection to the accident, the media focused on the autopsy results of several members of the Nimitz's enlisted flight deck crew who were killed, who tested positive for marijuana. As a result, President Ronald Reagan instituted a "Zero Tolerance" drug policy across all of the U.S. armed services, which started the mandatory drug testing of all U.S. military personnel.[9]

Nimitz deployed again to the Mediterranean on 3 August 1981. The ship, in company with USS Forrestal, conducted a Freedom of Navigation exercise in international waters in the Gulf of Sidra near Libya on 18 and 19 August 1981. On the morning of 19 August 1981, two Grumman F-14 Tomcats of VF-41 were engaged by two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22s, resulting in the two Libyan aircraft being shot down in what became known as the Gulf of Sidra incident.

Nimitz's fourth deployment, from 10 November 1982 to 20 May 1983, was to the Caribbean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Nimitz deployed for a fifth time on 8 March 1985. On 14 June 1985, two Lebanese gunmen hijacked TWA Flight 847, which carried 153 passengers and crew and included Americans. In response, Nimitz was deployed to the coast of Lebanon, where it remained until August 1985. The embarked Airwing 8 flew continuous sorties for 67 days, bombing several sites in Beirut including the runways of Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport. The ship returned to Norfolk on 4 October 1985.

File:USS Nimitz (CVN-68) flight deck after 1981 EA-6B crash.jpeg
Wreck of an EA-6B Prowler after it crashed during a night landing, 1981

Nimitz, again with CVW-8 embarked, departed Norfolk for its sixth and final Mediterranean deployment on 30 December 1986. After four months and numerous Mediterranean port visits, the carrier crossed the equator en route to Rio de Janeiro. From Rio de Janeiro, it proceeded south around Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean. After a brief stop in San Diego, to offload its East Coast air wing, it arrived at its new home port of Bremerton, Washington, on 2 July 1987.

Nimitz deployed to the Western Pacific with Carrier Air Wing 9 embarked on 2 September 1988. During the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Nimitz provided security off the coast of South Korea. In October, it operated in the North Arabian Sea participating in Operation Earnest Will, the protection of reflagged Kuwaiti tankers. On 30 November 1988, while in the Arabian Sea, a 20 mm cannon accidentally fired during maintenance, striking a KA-6 Intruder. The ensuing fire spread to six other aircraft, and two sailors were killed. Nimitz returned to Bremerton on 2 March 1989.


On 25 February 1991, Nimitz departed Bremerton for the Persian Gulf in relief of USS Ranger in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, returning to Bremerton on 24 August 1991. Nimitz again deployed to the Persian Gulf on 1 February 1993, in support of Operation Southern Watch, returning on 1 August 1993.

Nimitz (left) cruising with Independence and Port Royal in the Sea of Japan in September 1997

On 27 November 1995, Nimitz deployed to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf with Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9). In March 1996, it patrolled the waters off Taiwan amid missile tests conducted by the Chinese in the area, becoming the first American warship to pass through the Taiwan Strait since 1976. It also cruised the Persian Gulf in support of Southern Watch prior to returning from deployment on 20 May 1996.

Between 14–24 July 1997, Nimitz participated in Joint Task Force Exercise 97-2 (JTFEX 97-2) off the coast of southern California, which also served as a "Revolution in Strike Warfare" demonstration. The latter event was designed to demonstrate the capability of an aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing to project carrier-based airpower into littoral warfare.[5] On 20 July 1997, Nimitz and Carrier Air Wing Nine began a high-intensity strike campaign. When flight operations were completed four days later, Nimitz and Carrier Air Wing Nine had carried out 771 strike sorties while dropping 1,337 bombs on target. Carrier Air Wing Nine flew 975 fixed-wing sorties during this four-day surge operation. Almost 80 percent of the sorties flown were strike sorties, with strike support accounting for another 10 percent. F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters flew nearly 80 percent of the strike sorties. Of the 771 strike sorties, 727 were loaded with ordnance, while 44 were electronic support by EA-6B Prowlers. During this four-day period, only a portion of the medium-range interdiction strikes required tanking support. KC-135 and KC-130 tanker aircraft provided most of this support. S-3 Vikings conducted recovery tanking and supplied more than one-third of the fuel passed to Carrier Air Wing Nine aircraft during this surge operation.[10][11] This surge had been preceded by a 16-hour preparation after undergoing four days that had generated about 700 fixed-winged sorties.[11][12] A following study by the Center for Naval Analyses determined that Nimitz and Carrier Air Wing Nine could have maintained this high-sortie operational tempo for another twelve to twenty-four hours before requiring equipment maintenance, rest for its crews and its ordnance and aviation fuel stocks to be replenished.[13]

On 1 September 1997, Nimitz began an around the world cruise, again supporting Southern Watch, which ended in Newport News, Virginia on 2 March 1998. It next spent the next three years undergoing a nuclear Refueling and Complex Overhaul that ended on 25 June 2001.


File:USS Nimitz (CVN-68) Data about the ship.jpg
Monitor showing data about Nimitz
File:US Navy 070704-N-4420S-123 Lt. Cmdr. David Bynum, a Navy chaplain aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68), passes out happy face sponge balls to the students of CSI High School for the Deaf during a community relations visit.jpg
Lt. Cmdr. David Bynum, a Navy chaplain aboard Nimitz, passes out happy face sponge balls to the students of CSI High School for the Deaf in Chennai India during a community relations visit in July 2007.

On 21 September 2001,[14] after sea trials in the Virginia Capes, Nimitz began its transit around South America to its new home port of NAS North Island in San Diego, California, arriving there on 13 November 2001. Aircraft from Carrier Air Reserve Wing 20 were embarked for the transit. From January to May 2002, it underwent a four-month post-shakedown maintenance availability at North Island; during this time Advanced combat direction system was installed.

Nimitz's eleventh operational deployment began on 3 March 2003.[15] It relieved USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf in mid-April 2003, launching Carrier Air Wing 11 aircraft sorties over Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). It returned to San Diego on 5 November 2003. Nimitz and CVW-11 were awarded the 2003 Battle "E"[16] and Flatley Award in early 2004.[17]

Nimitz, again with CVW-11 embarked, deployed to the Persian Gulf on 7 May 2005, returning on 8 November 2005.[18] This deployment marked three decades of service, and was depicted in the Emmy award winning 2008 PBS documentary series Carrier.[19] In June 2006, Nimitz was awarded the 2005 Battle "E".[20]

The carrier departed North Island for its thirteenth deployment on 2 April 2007 to the Arabian Sea, relieving USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in support of OIF.[21] It anchored off Chennai, India on 2 July 2007 as part of efforts to expand bilateral defense cooperation between India and the United States.[22] Sailors participated in community work in Chennai prior to departing, on 5 July 2007, along with the destroyer USS Pinckney towards the Persian Gulf. It returned to North Island on 30 September 2007.[23]

On 24 January 2008, Nimitz deployed to the Pacific for a "surge"-deployment.[24] On 9 February 2008, two Russian Tu-95 'Bear' bombers overflew the carrier in the Western Pacific.[25] Four F/A-18C Hornets were launched when the bombers were 500 miles (800 km) away from the US ships, and intercepted the bombers 50 miles (80 km) south of Nimitz. Two F/A-18s trailed one of the bombers, which twice flew over the deck of the carrier at an altitude of 2,000 feet (610 m), while the other two F/A-18s trailed another Tu-95 circling about 50 miles (80 km) away from the carrier. Reportedly, there was no radio communication between the American and Russian aircraft. According to the Department of Defense, one of the two aircraft was said to have flown above Nimitz at an altitude of 2,000 feet (610 m). On the same day, Russian aircraft entered Japanese airspace, which caused the Japanese to raise protest to the Russian ambassador in Tokyo.[26]

Again, on 5 March 2008, a Russian bomber came within 3 to 5 nautical miles (6 to 9 km) and flew 2,000 feet (610 m) above Nimitz and its battle group. Two F/A-18 fighters intercepted the Russian aircraft and escorted it out of the area.[25]

Nimitz was awarded the Navy Battle "E" for battle efficiency for 2007 along with the Ney award for food service excellence. It returned to its home port of San Diego on 3 June 2008.

The Nimitz Strike Group, including CVW-11, departed the States for a scheduled Western Pacific deployment on 31 July 2009,[27] and began to fly combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 21 September.[28]


An MV-22 Osprey of VMM-165 lands on Nimitz in October 2012.

In January 2010, while in the Persian Gulf, the ship was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its back-to-back deployments in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. The award was presented by Admiral Gary Roughead in a ceremony on the ship 6 January 2010.[29]

Nimitz visited Hong Kong for five days in February 2010 to allow its crew to rest and visit the city. The visit occurred despite China previously preventing a visit by the carrier USS Kitty Hawk.[30][31]

On 9 December 2010, the Navy formally announced that Everett, Washington was to be the new home port for Nimitz.[32] This move was expected to save the Navy $100 million.[33] On 9 March 2012, Nimitz arrived at its new homeport of Naval Station Everett after spending nearly a week at sea conducting post overhaul sea trials.[34]

In March 2012, Nimitz arrived at its new home port of Naval Station Everett in Washington state after more than a year of maintenance work in Bremerton. It replaced the Nimitz-class carrier, Abraham Lincoln.[35] On 3 August 2012, Nimitz departed from Pearl Harbor after a two-day port call, arriving at NAS North Island on 9 August 2012 to begin Fleet Replacement Squadron carrier qualifications.[14] On 6 October 2012, a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from squadron VMM-165 landed and refuelled on board Nimitz. This operation was part of an evaluation of the feasibility of the MV-22 as a potential replacement for the C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) cargo transport aircraft.[36][37]

A C-2 Greyhound of VRC-30 and an F-35C Lightning II of VX-23 ready for launching from Nimitz in November 2014; a second F-35C and an F/A-18F Super Hornet sit behind the catapults.

After the inactivation of USS Enterprise on 1 December 2012, Nimitz became the oldest U.S. carrier in service, although Enterprise retains the record for longest-serving.

The BBC reported that Nimitz was located in the Persian Gulf, ready to contribute to an operation against Syria when President Obama ordered a military strike. Two days later it was reported said that the carrier and its task group had been re-routed westwards across the Arabian Sea.[38][39]

It was reported that the ship—in its eighth month out to sea—transited the Suez Canal on 20 October 2013 into the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility, where the Navy intended to keep it for a few weeks conducting joint training with allied nations before returning it home.[40][41] Nimitz returned to Everett on 16 December 2013.[42]

In late 2014, following the completion of work up qualifications, Nimitz participated in her first deployment, a two-week multi-national fleet exercise involving the Third Fleet, as well as ships from the Royal Canadian Navy and JMSDF.[43] Following the conclusion of the exercise, on November 3 the first F-35C Lightning II to land on an aircraft carrier recovered aboard Nimitz to begin a two-week Development Testing I deployment. This saw a pair of aircraft from VX-23 undertaking carrier operations of launch, recovery and handling aboard ship in both day and night conditions.[44][45] The initial deployment was completed on 14 November 2014.[46] In 2015, Nimitz transferred to Bremerton to undergo a 16-month maintenance cycle.[47]

Eventual replacement

The Nimitz-class carriers have a lifespan of approximately 50 years. Nimitz itself is projected to be replaced around 2025 by the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). The exact date of the ship's inactivation and decommissioning will likely depend on Defense Department funding considerations.[48]

Awards and decorations

Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Navy Unit Commendation with two stars Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy E Ribbon with
two Battle "E" devices
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
with three stars
Navy Expeditionary Medal
with five stars
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal

See also


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  2. Polmar, Norman (2004). The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. fleet. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-59114-685-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  10. Jewell, Angelyn; et al. "USS Nimitz and Carrier Airwing Nine Surge Demonstration" (PDF). Alexandria, Virginia: Center for Naval Analyses. Retrieved 2012-07-18<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>, pp 3–5
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  48. O'Rourke, Ronald (24 March 2015). "Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2015-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links


Preceded by
USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
Oldest active combat ship of the United States Navy
Succeeded by