The famous aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk makes its last trip to the scrapper’s torch


The old USS Falcon kitten (CV-63) embarked on its final journey, heading for demolition at a shipbreaking plant in Texas after being sold for just a penny. The historic conventionally powered carrier is embarking on a long journey towards its final destruction – bypassing the South American continent because, at more than 280 feet wide, it is too large to pass through the Panama Canal.

the Falcon kittenThe roughly 16,000-mile journey began Jan. 15, when he departed a foggy Naval Station in Bremerton, Washington. Nicknamed the “Battle Cat”, the aircraft carrier was maneuvered out of the harbor by tugboats, which would eventually take her to Brownsville, Texas, for demolition, via the Strait of Magellan, which forms a natural passage between the oceans. Atlantic and Pacific. The whole journey could take more than 130 days. the Falcon kitten was sold with USS John F Kennedy (CV-67) – which is in a separate subclass and represents a slight improvement over the Falcon kitten design – for the same price of a penny.

The scrapyard, International Shipbreaking Ltd, was previously responsible for breaking up three other Bremerton-based carriers: USS Tidy (CV-61), USS Independence (CV-62) and USS Constellation (CV-64). Once dismantled, the contractor will sell scrap, iron and various non-ferrous metal ores from the warship.

Before that, the Falcon kitten underwent a hull cleaning process in drydock at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, to remove marine life. After this procedure, the need to move the carrier to Texas became more urgent, as “biofouling” would return shortly, requiring additional attention. Due to environmental concerns and an agreement with the local Suquamish tribe, it was not possible to undertake the same anti-fouling treatment in Bremerton.

“As difficult as life has been on this ship, it’s part of my story,” Navy veteran Corey Urband said. Recount the Kitsap Sun. “While most people were graduating from high school and college, I was 30 feet below the waterline, halfway around the world from home,” he recalls, reflecting on his time as a machinist’s mate on the carrier.

Urband was among the thousands of officers and crew who operated the Falcon kitten whenever. While the class’ three carriers, of which Kitty Hawk was the lead ship, were a significant improvement over the Forrestal class ships, Falcon kitten, Constellation (CV-64), and America (CV-66) — as well as the unique John F Kennedy (CV-67) – were eventually eclipsed by the Navy’s nuclear-powered super aircraft carriers, starting with the unique USS Business, then the prolific Nimitz to classify.

Nevertheless, the Falcon kitten had new features, including crew escalators, one forward and one aft, and possibly a third escalator to take high-ranking officers between the lower decks and the deck of the ship . You can read more about this unusual system in this previous article.

You can read all about what it was like to serve aboard the Falcon kitten in this special past of ours.

Once finished, the Falcon kitten cost $264 million in 1961 silver, or about $2.5 billion in 2021. The carrier’s hull had been laid by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in 1956 and commissioned in 1961 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

For its first operational cruise, between August and November 1961, the aircraft carrier embarked two squadrons of F8U-2/2N Crusader fighter aircraft, one squadron each of A4D-2N Skyhawk, AD-6/ AD-7 Skyraider propeller-driven light attack aircraft and A3D-2 Skywarrior heavy attack aircraft, as well as WF-2 Tracer early warning aircraft detachments, F8U-1P Crusader reconnaissance aircraft and HUP-2 Retriever aircraft guard helicopters.

Two years later, in 1963, “Battle Cat” was involved in the first of a series of experiences this involved launching the U-2 spy plane from an aircraft carrier deck.

Subsequently, the Falcon kitten saw combat service in Vietnam, receiving the Presidential Unit Citation for action during the Tet Offensive. In 1972, while at Yankee Station off the coast of North Vietnam, racial tensions aboard the ship boiled over into a riot, injuring up to 60 sailors. The incident led to the TO THE TOP (Understanding Self Worth and Racial Dignity), an early action racial awareness, promoted by Admiral Elmo R Zumwalt.


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