Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier

Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier
USS Kitty Hawk CV-63.jpg
USS Kitty Hawk
Class overview
Name: Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier
Builders: New York Shipbuilding
New York Navy Yard
Newport News Shipbuilding
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: Forrestal-class
Succeeded by: Enterprise-class
In commission: 21 April 1961 – 31 January 2009
Completed: 4
Retired: 4
General characteristics
Displacement: 60,933 tons light
81,780 tons full load
Length: 1,069 ft (326 m) overall
990 ft (300 m) waterline
Beam: 130 ft (40 m) waterline
282 ft (86 m) extreme
Draft: 38 ft (12 m)
Propulsion: Westinghouse geared steam turbines, eight steam boilers, four shafts; 280,000 shp
Speed: 32 knots
Range: 12,000 miles
Aircraft carried: Up to 90 aircraft

The Kitty Hawk-class supercarriers of the United States Navy were an incremental improvement on the Forrestal-class vessels. Four were built, all in the 1960s, Kitty Hawk (CV-63) (1961–2009), Constellation (CV-64) (1961–2003), America (CV-66) (1965–1996) and John F. Kennedy (CV-67) (1967–2007). All are now decommissioned.


Improved Forrestal carriers

The biggest differences from the Forrestals are greater length, and a different placement of elevators; two are forward of the island, one is aft of the island and another on the portside stern. The movement of the #4 elevator from the forward to the after end of the angle made it useful for aircraft movement, since the forward-end elevator was useless as it was in both the landing path and in the launch path of the #3 and #4 catapults.

Three different shipyards were used to construct the ships. Kitty Hawk was built at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Constellation at New York Naval Shipyard, America and John F. Kennedy at Newport News Shipbuilding. John F. Kennedy is similar to the earlier units in flightdeck arrangement and propulsion, but has enough differences that she is often placed in her own class. Propulsion consisted of four Westinghouse geared turbines, 280,000 shp, four shafts with eight 1,200 psi Foster Wheeler boilers.

Construction and design differences

The first three units were constructed with a Terrier surface to air missile system. The supporting missile launchers and AN/SPG-55 radars consumed a large amount of space, while at the same time duplicating the capabilities of the air defence escorts, and were later removed. John F. Kennedy did not have Terrier and was built with the shorter ranged Sea Sparrow, Basic Point Defense Missile System (BPDMS). All were eventually equipped with NATO Sea Sparrow (NSSM) and Phalanx CIWS for self defense.[1] In 2001, Kitty Hawk received two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers replacing the forward Sea Sparrow and Phalanx CIWS equipment.[2] The SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite was added as part of the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) on Kitty Hawk and Constellation.[3]

America had several differences from the lead units of the class. Instead of two forward anchors, one on each side, America had no starboard anchor and an additional anchor astern, a change made to accommodate the AN/SQS-23 sonar. America was the only post-World War II U.S. carrier to be built with sonar, though it was removed in the early 1980s. She also had a narrow smokestack compared to prior units.[1]

John F. Kennedy class

John F. Kennedy (CV-67) was originally scheduled to be the fourth Kitty Hawk-class carrier,[4] but because she received so many modifications during construction, she formed her own ship class[4] and is often listed as a single-class carrier. Kennedy had similar design changes regarding the anchors to accommodate a sonar array, but the sonar was never installed. There were also plans to make her nuclear powered, but since Congress would not authorize it, Kennedy was constructed as a conventionally powered carrier.[1] Her smokestack is also different and tilts outboard to send stack gas away from the flight deck. The angled end of the waist is also different than the other Kitty Hawks, bearing a closer resemblance to that of the Nimitz-class. Kennedy is also 17 feet (5.2 m) shorter in length than the other Kitty Hawk-class carriers.


From 1987 to 1991 Kitty Hawk was overhauled for $785 million under the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.[5] From 1990 to 1992, Constellation received her $800 million service life extension also in Philadelphia.[6] The program was intended to add 15 years to the life of the ships. John F. Kennedy was not overhauled as part of SLEP. Instead, from 1993 to 1995, she received a $491 million overhaul. It was the final project of Philadelphia Naval Shipyard prior to its closing.[7] America had been scheduled to be overhauled under the service life extension program after Constellation, but she was decommissioned 9 August 1996 instead, during a time of budget cuts after the Cold War. America was in very poor condition when she was decommissioned, and therefore despite her historical significance was not held as a donation asset. She was expended as a live-fire target and sunk on 14 May 2005.

Constellation was decommissioned 7 August 2003. John F. Kennedy was decommissioned on 23 March 2007. Only Kitty Hawk remained in service as of early 2008 and was replaced by USS George Washington (CVN-73) as the forward-deployed carrier in Japan. Kitty Hawk returned to the United States after the turnover.[8] She was decommissioned on 31 January 2009.[9]

Ships in class

Name Builder Commissioned Decommissioned Fate Source
Kitty Hawk (CV-63) New York Shipbuilding Corporation 29 April 1961 31 Jan 2009 Decommissioned [1]
Constellation (CV-64) New York Naval Shipyard 27 October 1961 7 August 2003 Stricken, to be disposed of [2]
America (CV-66) Newport News Shipbuilding 23 January 1965 9 August 1996 Sunk as a target [3]
John F. Kennedy (CV-67) Newport News Shipbuilding 7 September 1968 1 August 2007 Inactive, out of commission, on donation hold [4]



  1. ^ a b c Modern naval combat. David Miller, Chris Miller, pp. 116–17. London; New York: Salamander Books, c1986. ISBN 0-861012313.
  2. ^ Doug Huddy. USS Kitty Hawk gets upgrade with Rolling Airframe Missile weapon system. Stars and Stripes. Wednesday, 25 July 2001.
  3. ^ AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare (EW) system
  4. ^ a b Navy Announces Availability of ex-John F. Kennedy for Donation
  5. ^ A somber farewell to the Kitty Hawk; the job done, the carrier leaves. But clouds hang over the yard. Laurie Hollman. Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, PA: 31 July 1991, p. B.1
  6. ^ Revamped Aircraft Carrier Sails For 10-Day Sea Trial. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, FL: 7 November 1992, p. A.14
  7. ^ Shipyard's Closing Uproots 4,400 Workers: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard Scheduled To Close Sept. 15. Associated Press. The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio: 2 May 1995, p. 12.C.
  8. ^ United States Navy. Kitty Hawk Command FAQ. Accessed 12 January 2008.
  9. ^ Fox News. Kitty Hawk decommissioning news. Accessed 28 May 2008.

External links

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