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Kitty Hawk Strike Group
Kitty Hawk Battle Group
CVA / CV-63 Kitty Hawk
"HAWK" / "The Battle Cat"

Kitty Hawk is one of 12 aircraft carriers in the American naval fleet and the only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier.

The 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 manned aircraft on Dec. 17, 1903.

Following commissioning, Kitty Hawk's first commanding officer, Capt. William F. Bringle, sailed his new ship around South America to her new homeport in San Diego, Calif.

Preparations for the ship's first extended Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment were completed and Kitty Hawk departed San Diego in September 1962, returning the following year. From 1963 to 1972, Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW-11) completed eight extended deployments, including six in support of American forces in Vietnam. During that period, Kitty Hawk was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Service Commendation, four Navy Unit Commendations, a Battle Efficiency "E" and many other unit awards. Also, Lt. C.E. Klusmann of VFP-63, Det. C., was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his participation in photo recon missions.

In January through July 1973, Kitty Hawk changed homeports from San Diego to Hunter's Point. Hawk moved into drydock January 14 of that year and work began to convert the ship from an attack (CVA) to a multi-mission carrier (CV). The "CV" designation indicated that Hawk was no longer strictly an attack carrier in that anti-submarine warfare would also become a major role. Hawk became the first Pacific Fleet carrier to carry the multi-purpose "CV" designation. The conversion consisted of adding 10 new helicopter calibrating stations, installing sonar/sonobuoy readout and analysis center and associated equipment, and changing a large portion of the ship's operating procedures.

During the yard period, the Engineering Department underwent a major change in its propulsion plant. The Navy Standard Oil (black oil) fuel system was completely converted to Navy Distillate Fuel. The Air Department added several major changes to the flight deck, including enlarging the jet blast deflectors (JBD) and installing more powerful catapults in order to handle the new Grumman F-14 Tomcat, which Hawk was standing by to receive for its next deployment. Enlarging JBD#1meant the Number One Aircraft Elevator had to be redesigned, making Hawk the only carrier at the time having an aircraft elevator which tracked from the hangar deck to the flight deck angling out six degrees. Hawk moved out of drydock on April 28, 1973 and the next day, on her 12th birthday, was named a Multi-Purpose Aircraft Carrier (CV).

Hawk stayed busy throughout the mid-1970s with numerous deployments to the Western Pacific and involvement in a large number of exercises, including RIMPAC in 1973 and 1975.

Kitty Hawk departed San Diego on March 8, 1976 and on March 12 entered drydock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash, to commence a 100-million dollar complex overhaul scheduled to last 12 and a half months. This overhaul configured Hawk to operate with the F-14 and S-3A "Viking" aircraft in a total CV sea control mode. This included adding spaces for storage, ordnance handling and maintenance facilities for the two aircraft. Also included in the work package were more efficient work areas for air frames and a repair facility for ground support equipment and the addition of avionics support capability for the S-3. The ship also replaced the Terrier Surface-to-Air missile system with the NATO Seasparrow system, and added elevators and modified weapons magazines to provide an increased capability for handling and stowing the newer, larger air launched weapons. Hawk completed the overhaul in March 1977 and departed the shipyard April 1 of that year to return to San Diego.

In 1979, the ship teamed with Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN (CVW-15) for another WESTPAC deployment, which included Vietnamese search and assistance operations ordered by then-Commander-in-Chief President Jimmy Carter to aid Vietnamese refugees who were attempting to escape the Socialist Republic of Vietnam via small boats. During that deployment, Hawk also offered contingency support off the coast of Korea following the assassination of Republic of Korea President Park Chung Hee. The deployment was then extended two-and-a-half months to support contingency operations in the North Arabian Sea during the Iranian hostage crisis. For their actions in the region, Kitty Hawk and CVW-15 were awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal. Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego in February 1980 and was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Naval Air Force Pacific Battle Efficiency "E" as the best carrier in the Pacific Fleet.

In April 1981, Kitty Hawk left San Diego for her 13th deployment to the Western Pacific. Following the cruise, the crew was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal for the rescue of Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.

In January 1982, Kitty Hawk returned to Bremerton for another year-long overhaul. Following the comprehensive upgrade and a vigorous training period with Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9), Kitty Hawk deployed as the flagship for Battle Group Bravo. Kitty Hawk logged over 62,000 miles on this deployment and remained on station in the North Arabian Sea for more than 60 consecutive days. The ship returned to San Diego on Aug. 1, 1984.

In July 1985, Kitty Hawk and CVW-9 deployed again as flagship for Battle Group Bravo. Kitty Hawk and CVW-9 combined to set a standard for operations, completing their second consecutive fatality-free deployment. CVW-9 crews logged more than 18,000 flight hours and 7,300 arrested landings while Kitty Hawk maintained its catapults and arresting gear at 100 percent availability.

Kitty Hawk bid farewell to San Diego on Jan. 3, 1987, as the ship departed her homeport of 25 years and set out on a six-month world cruise. During the circumnavigation, Kitty Hawk and CVW-9 again showed their commitment to safety by conducting a third fatality-free deployment. Kitty Hawk spent 106 consecutive days on station in the Indian Ocean and was again awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its service. The world cruise ended at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on July 3.

With the return of CVW-15 to its decks, Kitty Hawk began its second deployment around "the Horn" of South America to its original home port of San Diego on Dec. 11, 1991.

On Aug. 1, 1992, Kitty Hawk was appointed as Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific's "ready carrier." The ship embarked Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group FIVE; Commander, Destroyer Squadron SEVENTEEN and Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN for three months of work-ups before deploying to the Western Pacific on Nov. 3, 1992. While on deployment, Kitty Hawk spent nine days off the coast of Somalia supporting U.S. Marines and coalition forces involved in Operation Restore Hope. In response to increasing Iraqi violations of United Nations sanctions, the ship rushed to the Arabian Gulf on Dec. 27, 1992. Just 17 days later, Kitty Hawk led a joint, coalition offensive strike against designated targets in southern Iraq.

The Hawk set sail on its 17th deployment June 24, 1994, providing a stabilizing influence operating in the Western Pacific during a time of great tension in the Far East, particularly concerning North Korea.

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. The Hawk returned to San Diego April 11, 1997, immediately beginning a 15-month, $110 million overhaul, including three months in drydock in Bremerton, Wash., from January to March 1998.

The yard period included refurbishing the ship's four propellers and shafts, repainting the hull and replacing the rudders with reconditioned ones taken from the decommissioned aircraft carrier Ranger (CV 61). Over a three month period in early 1998, nearly 4,000 shipyard workers, Sailors and contractors completed $65 million in repairs (over 500 major jobs) in the Complex Overhaul of the dry-docked Kitty Hawk. All four of the Hawk's screws were repaired (number three was replaced), and all the line shaft bearings were replaced. Containments were built around the shafts to maintain temperature and humidity levels while complex fiberglass work was completed. For the rudders, large holes were cut through the decks, and the rudders and all associated systems were removed. Refurbished rudders were then removed from the decommissioned carrier USS Ranger while that ship was in the water, to be re-machined and installed on the Hawk.

Kitty Hawk departed San Diego on 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 Carrier Air Wing FIVE, operating from Atsugi, Japan. Kitty Hawk arrived at her new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, on Aug. 11, 1998. Less than a week after arriving in her new homeport, civilian contractors from US Naval Ship Repair Facility (SRF), working with Kitty Hawk Sailors, began over 150 separate jobs. Projects range from repairing water-tight doors and hatches to replacing corroded deck drains. While a majority of the tasks are taking place in out-of-the-way areas, the largest job was replacing non-skid on the Flight Deck. Non-skid is an epoxy/sand compound used to protect the metal decking from corrosion and to provide traction for aircraft and personnel.

Kitty Hawk became the oldest active ship in the United States Navy upon the decommissioning of USS Independence on September 30, 1998. Kitty Hawk is only the second aircraft carrier ever to hold the honor of flying the First Navy Jack.

An important issue to keep in mind is that as the Kitty Hawk is the only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the fleet, that its deployments are not typical of what one might expect from a MED or WESTPAC deployment by CONUS based carrier. The Kitty Hawk tends to leave port for a few weeks and take part in various activities in the Pacific region. The Kitty Hawk will rarely make a deployment to the Gulf and does so usually under extreme circumstances.


USS Kitty Hawk is slated for replacement by CVN-77 in 2008.


Kitty Hawk requires an infrastructure similar to a city. The duties of the commanding officer (CO) parallel those of a mayor. The CO is ultimately responsible and accountable for the welfare of the ship and its crew, and establishes the guidelines under which the ship operates. Next comes the executive officer (XO), similar in many respects to a city manager. The XO ensures the CO's guidelines are implemented and the ship runs smoothly. The ship is further divided into 17 departments that provide the range of services required to support our large population and mission.

The Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) plays a key role in the repair/maintenance of aircraft parts. AIMD capabilities extend from the repair of engines, airframes, hydraulics, ordnance launching systems to the most complicated avionics and electrical systems. AIMD can x-ray an aircraft to check structural integrity, sample oil or oxygen for purity, pack parachutes and support all aviators' life support systems and provide calibration services. AIMD is also the battle group repair coordinator for providing emergent repair and technical assistance for all ships operating with the Kitty Hawk at sea.

Air Department is run by the air boss, whose responsibilities include overseeing the movement of aircraft on board and in the immediate airspace of the ship. Personnel assigned to Air Department launch, recover and fuel the aircraft as well as move them on the Flight Deck and in the Hangar Bay. The most notable features of the department are the colored jerseys worn by its personnel at sea. Yellow shirts are worn by catapult officers and plane directors, purple by refueling crews, red by ordnance handlers and crash and salvage crews, blue by plane movers and white by safety and medical personnel.

Kitty Hawk's Chaplain Department strives to enhance the spiritual well being, morale, and personal wellness of all Hawk Sailors. The Chaplain Department provides a wide range of worship and religious education opportunities, counseling services and training. Additionally, the department operates the chapel, crew's lounge, personal development center and the ship's 3,000-volume library. All emergency communications through the American Red Cross are coordinated through the Chaplain's Office.

Keeping Kitty Hawk in touch with the rest of the world is Combat Systems Department. The department's technicians operate computers, radio and electronic receivers, decoding services and high-powered transmitters putting the captain and embarked commanders in touch with almost anyone on the world via satellite and shore-based stations. The primary means of communication at sea are electronically transmitted messages. Combat Systems also maintains automated data processing support as well as email and internet capabilities.

Deck Department oversees the traditional seafaring responsibilities on board and is manned by the "oldest rate in the Navy" -- the boatswain's mates. On board Kitty Hawk, the department maintains the exterior decks below the flight deck, anchors the ship at sea, moors the ship to the pier in port, and rescues anyone falling overboard by piloting two rigid-hull inflatable boats. The department's biggest responsibility, however, is underway replenishment of the ship. Along Kitty Hawk's starboard side are the primary receivers for fuel transferred from supply ships that steam alongside. Mail, weapons, food and people also can be transferred in that fashion. But the most evident of boatswain's mate duties to visitors is the tradition of "piping" of ship's announcements and the ringing of the ship's bell to tell time.

Kitty Hawk personnel have available around-the-clock, state-of-the-art, comprehensive dental services, including all specialty care. The Dental Department's highly trained team is capable of providing everything from routine examinations and cleanings to complex oral and maxillofacial surgical procedures out of its five fully-equipped operators. An onboard, full-service dental prosthetic laboratory is capable of fabrication of all types of crowns, bridges and dentures that might be required by its patients.

Engineering Department serves as Kitty Hawk's utility company and public works center. The engineers provide fresh water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, interior communications and repair services -- all at no charge. The engineers also ensure all eight boilers are on-line, powering the ship's four propellers, four steam catapults and other ship's systems. Another of Engineering Department's many responsibilities is protecting the ship from damage by ensuring the ship's compartmentalization system is intact, and that fires and floods are prevented.

Executive/Administrative Department is similar to the city hall staff. Office clerks, known as yeoman and personnelmen, maintain the records and files that enable the ship to operate. All official correspondence is routed through and distributed by this department. The Exec/Admin staff also includes lithographers, journalists and career advisors. The ship's television, radio and newspaper are produced by this department. Executive Department also coordinates educational programs, ranging from Navy advancement tests to college courses.

Providing the ship's court system and police force is the Legal Department. The Uniform Code of Military Justice details the conduct expected of Navy people. As legal assistants, the department tends to the special needs of Sailors by helping them draft powers of attorney and wills so their families and property are taken care of.

Ensuring the ship stays in top fighting shape is the Maintenance Department. The ship's Preventive Maintenance System ensures that every piece of equipment on board is inspected regularly for wear and tear. The department schedules and documents these checks according to Navy standards, and provides guidance for obtaining replacement parts.

Taking care of the health needs of the 5,500 Sailors on board and the hundreds of Sailors in the task group is Kitty Hawk's Medical Department. This small "hospital at sea" is equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and a full staff of health care professionals. The 65 inpatient beds, ICU, pharmacy, X-ray, laboratory and operating and emergency room capabilities enable the Medical Department to effectively manage minor to major illnesses and injuries. When the ship is at general quarters, six battle dressing stations, or triage areas, provide on-the-scene medical care.

Navigation Department is charged with safely getting Kitty Hawk to where it needs to be. The ship's navigator and quartermasters use satellite and celestial navigation as aids to determine the ship's location. With the help of an extensive library of charts and maps, they can plot out the best direction of travel for the ship. In close maneuvers with other ships, the quartermasters take over steering the ship. The department is also responsible for signal flags you see on the yardarm. This age-old way mariners communicated is still carried out on board this modern warship today. The department's signalmen can communicate Kitty Hawk's intentions to other ships in close proximity by semaphore, mast lights or signal flags.

Operations Department is responsible for collecting, analyzing and distributing combat information to the captain, the admiral and the air wing to accomplish offensive and defensive missions. Through its different warfare and intelligence modules, the department monitors world events to give Kitty Hawk and the air wing the most accurate information available. Department personnel plan the ship's movements, forecast weather conditions, provide photographic intelligence, operate the ship's defensive weapons systems, maintains radar detection equipment, and controls aircraft operating within 60 miles of the ship.

Safety Department has the huge task of ensuring that the most dangerous place in the world -- the Flight Deck -- is also the safest, as well as every other space on board. Safety enforces the Navy's occupational safety regulations on board and helps the crew focus on safety ashore.

Security is charged with ship's physical security and law enforcement. More than 50 Sailors, trained in police techniques, are assigned to guard entrances to the ship, direct traffic in restricted areas, and operate the ship's brig.

It takes $9 million in ship support and another $22 million in airwing support each year to enable KITTY HAWK to perform its mission. Overseeing this budget and a $200 million inventory system is the Supply Department. From procuring needed parts to feeding the crew, the Supply Department sustains the crew and equips the ship. Divided into 10 customer service branches, the department runs seven dining facilities, the ship's post office, maintains the crew's payroll, operates the ship's laundry and retail stores and arranges recreational activities at sea and ashore.

The offensive and defensive capability of KITTY HAWK is provided by the Weapons Department. Hawk has over 2,000 tons of ordnance on board, ranging from air- and surface-launched missiles to the state-of-the-art precision-guided weapons. Weapons storage is provided in 54 weapons magazines, accessed by 11 weapons elevators. Ordnancemen maintain strict accounting and handling of their explosive load.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:43:24 ZULU