Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sayonara, USS Kitty Hawk

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, the oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy, made its final departure from the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan this week. After 47 years of service, the Kitty Hawk will stop at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and then travel to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wa., to be decommissioned.

I live in Washington state and I am thrilled at the prospect of seeing the Kitty Hawk, the oldest active ship with the longest total period of active service in the Navy. Yet, my excitement is nonetheless tinged with some sorrow at seeing the carrier “retired” and replaced.

Kitty Hawk is the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier in the Navy, and it will be replaced by the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered carrier, in the coming months.

"The Kitty Hawk has been a visible symbol of strength in a rapidly changing world," U.S. Ambassador to Tokyo Thomas Schieffer said during a ceremony last week. "Goodbye Kitty Hawk, hello George Washington."

The replacement of the Kitty Hawk by a nuclear-powered ship is not without some controversy. Earlier this month, a fire near the auxiliary boiler room and air conditioning and refrigeration space in the rear of the George Washington left one sailor with minor burns and 23 others with heat stress. Navy personnel say the fire spread through a passageway for cables. Regardless, the George Washington is scheduled to be based at Yokosuka, Japan, beginning in August.

Goodbye and Sayonara, Kitty Hawk.

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