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The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk is the first in a class of three super carriers. Constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, N.J., Kitty Hawk was commissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on April 29, 1961. It is the second U.S. Navy ship named after the small North Carolina town near which Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first-ever successful, controlled, powered aircraft on Dec. 17, 1903. Following commissioning, Kitty Hawk’s first commanding officer, Capt. William F. Bringle, took his new ship around South America to its new homeport in San Diego. Kitty Hawk departed San Diego in September 1962 on her first extended Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment. From 1963 to 1976, Hawk and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 completed eight extended deployments, including six in support of American forces in Vietnam. In March 1976, Kitty Hawk underwent a yearlong overhaul in Bremerton, Wash., to convert from an attack (CVA) to a multi-mission carrier (CV). Additional changes allowed Kitty Hawk to launch and recover the Navy’s new F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking aircraft. In the late '70s, the ship teamed with CVW-15 for another WESTPAC deployment, which included search and assistance operations to aid Vietnamese refugees. Hawk also offered contingency support off the coast of Korea. The deployment was then extended to support contingency operations in the North Arabian Sea during the Iran hostage crisis. Hawk returned to San Diego in February 1980, and was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Battle Efficiency “E” as the best carrier in the Pacific Fleet. In January 1982, Kitty Hawk returned to Bremerton for another yearlong overhaul. Following comprehensive upgrades Kitty Hawk deployed with CVW-2, in 1984 as the flagship for Battle Group Bravo. The ship returned to San Diego Aug. 1, 1984, and in July 1985, Kitty Hawk and CVW-9 deployed again as flagship for Battle Group Bravo. CVW-9 crews logged more than 18,000 flight hours and 7,300 arrested landings. Kitty Hawk bade farewell to San Diego Jan. 3, 1987, setting out on a six-month world cruise. Hawk and CVW-9 spent 106 consecutive days on station in the Indian Ocean, being awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. The cruise ended at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard July 3. Six months later, Kitty Hawk began a six-month overhaul. With the return of CVW-15 to its decks, Kitty Hawk began its second deployment around “the Horn” of South America to its original homeport of San Diego Dec. 11, 1991. In August 1992, Kitty Hawk was appointed as Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet’s “ready carrier.” The ship embarked Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 5; Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17 and CVW-15 for work-ups before deploying to the Western Pacific in November. Kitty Hawk spent nine days off the coast of Somalia supporting Operation Restore Hope. Kitty Hawk began her 18th deployment in October 1996. During the six-month underway period, the ship visited ports in the Arabian Gulf and Western Pacific. Hawk returned to San Diego April 11, 1997, immediately beginning a 15-month overhaul. Kitty Hawk departed San Diego July 6, 1998, to assume new duties as America’s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier from USS Independence (CV 62). Hawk also welcomed aboard CVW-5, operating from Atsugi, Japan. Kitty Hawk arrived at her new operating location of Yokosuka, Japan, Aug. 11, 1998. Kitty Hawk set sail for a planned three-month deployment March 2, 1999 and was ordered to the Arabian Gulf to enforce the No-Fly Zone over Southern Iraq. CVW-5 pilots flew more than 8,800 sorties in 116 days, including 1,300 combat sorties, dropping more than 20 tons of ordnance. Hawk returned to Yokosuka Aug. 25, 1999. In 2000, Kitty Hawk conducted routine local area operations and participated in Exercise Cobra Gold and Exercise Foal Eagle, and departed again in March 2001 for a spring underway period. On March 22, 2001, Kitty Hawk became the first aircraft carrier to go pier-side in Singapore at the new Changi Naval Base Pier. In October, 2001, following the terrorist attacks at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Kitty Hawk deployed to the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ship served as an afloat forward staging base for U.S. special forces. Kitty Hawk received orders in February 2003 and was soon involved in Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom in the North Arabian Gulf, serving 104 continuous days at sea. Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka May 6, entering a dry-dock period ending Oct. 17. Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka May 6, entering a dry-dock period ending Oct. 17. 2004 was an eventful year that involved a series of inspections, exercises, and port visits. On Feb. 19, a new chapter in the book of Kitty Hawk Strike Group’s history began with the first landing of an F/A-18F Super Hornet on board Kitty Hawk’s 4.1-acre flight deck during the ship’s 12th FDNF underway period. The VFA-102 “Diamondbacks” introduced the improved F/A-18 E/F “Super Hornet” to the 7th Fleet area of operation, replacing the F-14 Tomcat, after more than 30 years of service.
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