29 Apr 1961: USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63) is commissioned at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The second ship to be named for the wind swept location on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where man’s heavier-than-air journey first met demonstrable success, she represents a substantial improvement in the “super carrier” design first seen with the Forrestal-class CVA’s. Her airwing in the early 60’s consisted of A-1’s, A-3’s, A-4’s, F-8’s, WF-1’s, and SH-2’s along with the ship’s COD, a C-1. Marking a first for aircraft carriers was her all missile armament using the Terrier surface-to-air missile (note the illuminator facing the viewer in the picture on the left).
Forty-seven years later – F/A-18’s (C’s, E’s and F’s), EA-6B’s, E-2C’s, C-2A(R)’s and SH-60’s fly from her decks. In between she has seen A-5’s, RA-5C’s, A-7’s, A-6’s, F-4B’s, F-4J’s, F-14A’s, F-14D’s, E-2A’s, E-2B’s, S-3A’s, S-3B’s, ES-3’s, SH-3’s, EA-3B’s, EAK-3B’s, and Army and Air Force SPECOPS helos. She’s launched combat sorties in support of operations in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, and Afghanistan as well as support operations for Taiwan and Somalia (among many other places).
So if you find yourself so inclined today, hoist one in memory and honor of all who have and currently are serving on the mighty Battle Cat and remember her as she is, for she won’t be with us very much longer.