Mothballed Super Carriers

September 2nd, 2011

USS John C. Stennis

Another fine sunny day in Seattle, so I decided to catch a ferry over to Bremerton. A nice town, which has the Puget Sound Navy Museum (a small but excellent museum on the historic and current operations of the US Navy in this region) and is also home to the US Navy Base – Kitsap which has the mission of being the home port of navy assets in the West Puget Sound area (surface fleet including the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis CVN-74 and nuclear submarines such as USS Seawolf SSN-21 a fast attack submarine).

The base also incorporates the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard a maintenance and refurbishment centre, that also conducts an environmentally safe (if there can be such a thing!) recycling program of nuclear powered ships and submarines. Nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz CVN-68 is currently there undergoing maintenance after returning from a tour of duty in the Persian Gulf (you can see it quite clearly from the ferry – it is a nuclear powered Super Carrier so it is massive! Nimitz has 5,600 personnel – ship crew and air crew; and carries 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters – alas they were all removed before it got here). Once returned to service Nimitz will then be based further north at Navy Base Everett.

USS Nimitz
USS Nimitz

An additional section of the base is home to some of the US Navy Reserve Fleet. Basically a collection of decommissioned ships that are mothballed for a period of time for possible future use if required. At Kitsap this includes nuclear attack submarines (some you can see from the ferry) and 4 non-nuclear powered aircraft carriers:

USS Ranger CV-61 a Forrestal Class super carrier built in the 1950’s, decommissioned in 1993, which may possibly become a floating museum elsewhere.

USS Ranger USS Constellation
USS Ranger & USS Constellation

USS Independence CV-62 another Forrestal Class super carrier, decommissioned in 1998, she has been heavily cannibalized, so not sure it will end up as anything other than an artificial reef or scrap metal. In the 1990’s I was lucky enough to go on a tour of this carrier whilst it was still on active duty, when it paid a visit to Sydney, Australia. It was kind of sad to see it today, now a “ghost ship” compared to back then when it was fully equipped with F-14 Tomcats, A-6 Intruders, E-2 Hawkeyes etc;

USS Independence
USS Independence
USS Independence
USS Independence
USS Independence
USS Independence

USS Kitty Hawk CV-63 a Kitty Hawk class super carrier, the last non-nuclear powered carrier in the US fleet, launched in 1960 and decommissioned in 2009, making her the second longest serving ship in the US Navy. Attempts are being made to turn her into a floating museum once released from ready reserve in 2015. The longest serving US Navy ship is the USS Constitution a sailing frigate built in 1797 which makes it the oldest commissioned ship in the world (now docked on Boston, MA)!

USS Kitty Hawk
Carrier Row

USS Constellation CV-64 another Kitty Hawk class super carrier, also launched in 1960, decommissioned in 2003 and scheduled to be dismantled in the near future. This was another carrier I was able to tour in the 1990’s, once again in Sydney.

USS Constellation
USS Constellation

These massive aircraft carriers (when operational each had over 5000 personnel – ship crew and air crew; and carried between 70-90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters) are all docked next to each other and make for an impressive sight on carrier row, which is a section of the base that can be seen clearly from the nearby road, carpark and from neighbourhood hills overlooking the base. So it is possible to have a relatively close up look at them. I was a little nervous walking near the base gates taking photos but it was all ok and I didn’t get arrested!

USS Independence
Carrier Row
Carrier Row

To try and get a higher and better view of the carriers I went up one of the hills and found an empty lot, but the view was obscured by heavy overgrowth of trees etc, further up the road some houses had much better views, so I knocked on a door and asked if I could take some photos from their back yard, the old lady had no problem with it (must have been my accent). Thought it best to ask as I didn’t want to get shot for trespassing (this is America after all)!

USS Independence
USS Independence

All in all an interesting days outing. I also got to see plenty of sea lions swimming about and sunbathing on buoys, and a fantastic view of the Seattle skyline during the ferry ride. If you have any interest in Naval history I can thoroughly recommend Bremerton as a good day trip.


30 Comments Add yours

  1. Tim G says:

    Thank you for sharing these pictures. I was onboard the Indy from 1988 – 1992 – and yes sad to see her like this. I’m glad there is something left of her though – planning a trip to Seattle this summer with my boys and can’t wait to show them where I lived once upon a time. Cheers, TG

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks Tim, I hope you can get across to Bremerton. Even though they are in a poor state it is always impressive to see the carriers up close (I have been out there a couple of times to take a look)!

  2. Raymond Seward says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these photos. I served aboard the Independence from 74 to 77 and made 3 Med tours onboard her traveling to England, Spain, France, Italy and Sicily . Also made one trip to St. Thomas, Cuba and had a once in a life time trip across the top of the world (The Artic Circle) where I received my Blue Nose. Sailed into and thru a Hurrican one year and the old girl took a beating, but never missed a beat and got us thru. It was so bad, we had waves crashing over her bow. Served with many great men and have such wonderful memories. It’s so very sad to see her this way and last I heard they were planning on making her a man made reef. I would have much rather seen her become a Meritime Musuem, but I guess the reef is better than scrap and razor blades. I think of her and my shipmates often………………………………………….

    1. Deano says:

      Hi Raymond, thanks for taking a look at my blog. Sounds like you had some great adventures back then. Yeah it is sad, a museum is a fitting way for the old girls to retire but an artificial reef is the next best option I guess!

    2. Rob says:

      I was on the Biddle in 77, for a mid Cruise. my brother was on the independence from 80 to 84, he repaired and ran the captain’s gig.

      1. Deano says:

        It must be with some bittersweet sadness to see them end up like this?

  3. Roger Larkins says:

    I was just up here this last week on vacation.

    1. Deano says:

      Quite the sight isn’t it Roger?

  4. So glad I found your blog. My father sailed aboard both the Independence and Constellation in the ’60s. I’m booking tickets for a trip to Seattle so he can see both before they are made into razor blades. I wasn’t sure if I needed to hire a boat for a harbor tour so he could get close to them, but after seeing your photos, the parking lot looks close enough!

    1. Deano says:

      Hi, yes you can see them very close up, just be careful where you point your camera as right there is the active base! Just catch the ferry over from Seattle. If you do not have a car, a bus from the ferry stops near the Bremerton navy yard.

  5. Foggy55 says:

    I flew A-6E/KA-6Ds with VA-165 off of Ranger and Constellation; we’re all now retired and in mothballs.

    1. Deano says:

      It must have been a great experience. Thanks for taking a look at my blog

  6. Foggy55 says:

    OBTW: Actual scrapping of the decommissioned CVs has begun. The Forrestal has been relocated from storage at Philadelphia, PA to Brownsville, TX for scrapping. US Government sold her to a scrapper for $1.00, plan is the Constellation will be next to be cut up.

    1. Deano says:

      Yeah its kind of sad that’s where they are headed

    2. Becky says:

      Can anyone tell me how I would go about purchasing a small piece of the Indy, say a piece of the flight deck or inside the hanger bay? My son was stationed as ship’s company on the Indy for over 5 years between ’92 and ’97 and would truly love to have a small piece of her. I know she is in Brownsville, TX for scrapping but I need to know who over there I can contact about this. Please help me accomplish this for my son before it is too late. Thanks so very much.

      1. Deano says:

        Hopefully someone can help you out. Worst case look into the company doing the scrapping and touch base with their general office number/email.

  7. MYRON says:


    1. Deano says:

      That would have been impressive to see! It is a shame what fate lays ahead for her.

  8. MYRON says:


  9. hamellr says:

    The Ranger was supposed to go to Portland Oregon as a Museum ship. The Navy canceled those plans at the last moment. 😦

  10. flylady33 says:

    Wonderful pictures and text. I have never been to Bremerton but. I sure would like to. My brother lives on Mercer Island and I’m just in love with the Northwest.

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks. It is worth a trip to view them. They will start to cut them up some day soon

  11. Wilbur A England says:

    Foo Dog
    Flew out of Cubi Pt. RPI as flight crew plane captian with VRC-50 been abord all the ladies that served off Vietnam except Forrestal. Sad to see ships that were so alive in this condition. Yorktown looks good at Patriots Point, SC.

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks for your service. Yes when you see the USS Yorktown or USS Midway and the like it is fantastic to see them in good condition. Sad to see these one proud carriers rusting away waiting to be scrapped…

  12. Mustang.Koji says:

    Nice trip in a time tunnel, sir.

  13. charlie says:

    The longest serving warship in the world is HMS Victory, ordered in 1758, laid down in 1759 and launched 1765.

  14. Pat Reysen says:

    I don’t know how many of us are left. But I came aboard the Kitty in 1963 the day she arrived on Yankee Station of Viet Nam. I trapped as came on-board on a C-2 Cargo plane. I was assigned to #1 Boiler Room, and spent three and a half years being cooked in the 117 degree heat on a good day off Nam. I LOST TWO GREAT FRIENDS WHEN #4 MMR burned. Please remember Billy Dean Hooper and Charlie Philhower. In 1967, I went off the Kitty in style, being shot off No. 1 cat, in a A3B with my brother being the Flight Engineer of the crew. I grew to hate this ship immensely. In retaliation I became a Civilian Engineer on a tiny island Air Force Base along the Aleutian Chain, where the temperature’s never got above 60 degrees. I do hope she can be preserved as a museum or kept in a ready state in case the USN needs her again. I salute all who came before me and followed.

    1. Deano says:

      Bittersweet memories I guess? Thank you for your service

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