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One Military Plot to Sink its Own Aircraft Carrier

At first, plans called for the USS America to be broken down for its metal. No such thing occurred. In its place, chose the United States for a real-world trial.

USS America sinking.

“The USS America sank at 11:30 a.m. on May 14, 2005, and after travelling over three miles, came to a stop upright and in one piece on the ocean floor in the Atlantic. Veterans of America’s sinking considered it a solemn occasion. America’s prior sailors, however, had reason to be proud of her demise; the ship had been deliberately scuttled as part of a study measuring how carriers react to enemy attacks, providing important defensive data in exchange for her loss.

Three aircraft carriers, the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and USS America (CV-66), were constructed in the 1960s. The Kitty Hawks were a transitional batch of carriers and were generally regarded as an upgrade over the Forrestals they replaced. America, often called “The Big A,” was launched into service in 1965 and remained in operation until 1996.

Kitty Hawk-Class USS America Construction

A nuclear power plant was originally intended to be built in the United States. Nevertheless, midway through construction, it changed: America would be propelled conventionally by four steam turbines totalling 280,000 horsepower. America was a massive ship with a final length of 1,048 feet and a beam of 248 feet. Massive as it was, the ship could still attain 34 knots. The carrier’s crew of over 80 aeroplanes required over 4,600 men to operate.

Timeline of the USS America’s Service

America sailed the Atlantic and Mediterranean for most of her career, but she made three trips to the Pacific to support the Vietnam War. Over its three decades of service, the United States was present for or involved in several significant conflicts, including the Six-Day War, the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Operation Desert Storm. U.S. naval superiority had declined by the 1990s, when more sophisticated, nuclear-powered carriers became the standard. U.S. Naval officials still thought she had something to offer, so they planned for her to participate in a Service Life Extension Programme (SLEP) to extend her usefulness in the fleet until 2010. Unfortunately, America had to be retired due to financial cuts. In 1996, a ceremony was held at Norfolk Navy Shipyard to officially decommission America, after which she was sent to Philadelphia’s Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility. At that point, the plot thickened significantly.

The United States had been slated for destruction from the beginning. No such thing occurred. Instead, picked the United States for a live-fire test that would prove fatal. Veterans who served in America said it was impossible to sink a vessel bearing the name of the United States. It was the Navy’s opinion that this was not the case. The veterans appealed to museum officials to house the vessel. In the face of opposition, the Navy held steady. Informed American veterans of the decision in a letter sent by Admiral John B. Nathman, who served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations at the time.

For the last time, the United States will serve as a crucial component of our military’s readiness by serving as a live-fire testing and assessment platform. Future American aircraft carriers will be built using the lessons learned by the United States, protecting the children and grandchildren of soldiers. We will collect data from a wide range of above- and below-the-waterline testing for use by navy architects and engineers in designing the United States’ next generation of aircraft carriers. We must equip those vessels with advanced survival systems. The United States will quietly sink after its duty is finished. I know the name America, and your time spent serving your country onboard her holds a particular place in your hearts. In his letter, Adm. Nathman stressed the importance of the ship’s final mission and asked for everyone’s understanding. The verdict was unchangeable.

In Philadelphia, a funeral-like ceremony was held on February 25, 2005, to honour the USS America and its crew. With the goodbyes done, America sailed for the open seas. On April 19, the live-fire tests commenced. America proved to be a fairly challenging ship. For four weeks, the Navy punished America. Yet she wouldn’t sink. To scuttle America, she had to be boarded.

“It took four weeks, and they ended up having to scuttle her from on board owing to her not sinking,” mechanical engineer Blake Horner is reported in “She is not only significantly larger than WWII battleships, but she is also a lot tougher. While lacking the massive armour of historical battleships, her opponents will still have to break through steel and air pockets to reach her heart due to her hull’s double-layer construction. As a bonus, she had superior internal compartmentalization versus battleships. She’s so big that more water would have to be pumped into her than a battleship’s before she went down.

The Navy observed silence when America eventually sank at about 11:30 a.m. EST. Somewhere southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the United States of America sank for miles before stopping at a depth of 16,860 feet.

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