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In carrier aviation the lessons of Korea, the availability of more money, and the implications of the future led to a dramatic reversal of policy. In July 1951, only two years after cancellation of the supercarrier United States, a contract was awarded for the first of six vessels of the Forrestal class, ships more than 1,000 feet in overall length and with a full load displacement almost twice that of the Essex carriers. On these colossal hulls, in addition to machinery for speeds upwards of 33 knots, the new class of carrier provided larger fuel capacity, larger hangars, more powerful catapults, more elevators, and an angled deck layout which would permit the handling of almost 100 of the larger and higher performance aircraft soon to become available.

The development of the Forrestal, the US Navy's first super carrier, represented many significant improvements over previous carrier designs. Forrestal was the first carrier designed specifically to operate jet aircraft, and included an angled deck which permitted simultaneous takeoffs and landings. Forrestal's revolutionary design became the basis for all US carriers that followed. As the first aircraft carrier designed specifically for jet aircraft, she featured an armored flight deck. Additional "firsts" were an enclosed hurricane bow, steam-powered catapults for launching aircraft and four deck-edge elevators for moving aircraft to/from the hangar and flight decks.

The contracts originally let for CV 59 and 60 (Forrestal and Saratoga) did not include an angled deck in their designs. In 1953 the Navy redesigned the flight deck plans for the Forrestal and incorporated an angled landing deck. These changes were also made to the designs for the Saratoga. The contract for Forrestal was awarded in 1951 and for Saratoga in 1952. The contract for Ranger and Indpendence (CV 61 and 62) were not awarded until 1954. Therefore, the original contract designs for the Ranger and Indpendence would have included an angled deck. Technically speaking, Ranger (CVA 61) was the first carrier designed and built as an angled deck carrier.

The flight deck had a different layout than later aircraft carriers, with the island placed closer to the bow and a different starboard elevator configuration (one forward, two aft). On the port side, the number four elevator is forward of the two waist catapults -- on later carriers, that elevator is aft of the waist cats.

The Navy originally planned eight ships of the Forrestal class. When improvements in the original Forrestal design were incorporated into the last four, they were designated as the separate Kitty Hawk class.

On July 29, 1967 the USS Forrestal was operating off the coast of Vietnam, when a Zuni rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom into a parked and armed A-4 Skyhawk. The impact caused the belly fuel tank and a 1,000 pound bomb on the Skyhawk to fall off, spilling JP5 (jet fuel) onto the flight deck and ignited a fire. The bomb exploded, causing a massive chain reaction of explosions fed by fuel and bombs from other aircraft that were armed and ready for the coming strike. Fuel and bombs spilled into the holes in the flight deck igniting fires on lower decks. This was the single worst loss of life on a navy vessel since the USS Franklin (CV-13) was bombed in WWII: 134 lost their lives, while an additional 64 were injured.

For over 30 years, the sailors and aviators of the Forrestal sailed her though 21 successful operational deployments. In 1991, Forrestal provided support for Operation Provide Comfort, the international relief effort for the Kurds in northern Iraq. The ship completed the first noncombatant evacuation exercise ever conducted from a carrier, as well as many NATO and other multi-national exercises during her final deployment. In February 1992, the Forrestal changed her homeport from Mayport FL to Pensacola FL to become the US Navy's training carrier for naval aviators and support personnel. Forrestal arrived at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in September 1992 for her scheduled 14-month complex overhaul. The overhaul was discontinued in March 1993 when the Forrestal was designated for decommissioning in response to the decision to accelerate the closure of the Pennsylvania Naval Shipyard. USS Forrestal was decommissioned on 11 September 1993 in a ceremony at pier 6E at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. USS Forrestal remains moored at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, awaiting final dispostion. Currently assigned to the U.S. Navy donation Program, she is being held for possible service as a museum and historical center.

Saratoga was built at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. Saratoga was launched on October 8, 1955 and commissioned Apr. 14, 1956. She is 1039 feet in length overall with a beam of 129.5 feet. Her flight deck is 238 feet wide at the widest part. She displaces 78,000 tons and is capable of speeds in excess of 34 knots. Saratoga's normal crew while commissioned was about 3,000 officers and enlisted; with the airwing aboard, the complement was 5,500 personnel. Normally she would carry approximately 90 aircraft with a mix of helicopters, electronic warfare aircraft, anti-submarine warfare aircraft, early warning radar planes, and fighter/bomber aircraft.

Saratoga patrolled off the coasts of Cuba near Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban missile crisis. She was stationed off the coast of Lebanon during the Six-Day War. She saw combat in the Tonkin Gulf during the Vietnam war and in the Red Sea during the Persian Gulf war, and she was the first carrier to transit the Suez Canal by night. Saratoga began her final deployment--the 22d of her 38-year career--on January 12, 1994. Entering the Adriatic on February 1, Saratoga and her embarked carrier Airwing 17, launched the first of thousands of sorties in support of United Nations and NATO operations `Deny Flight' and `Provide Promise' over Bosnia and Herzogovina.

The first of the aircraft carriers to come to Philadelphia for her $500 million Ship Life Extension Program (SLEP) overhaul in 1979, the ship completed its final deployment in June 1994. After nearly 40 years as "Jacksonville's Flagship," the aircraft carrier Saratoga was Saratoga was decommissioned on August 20, 1994. The ship was towed out of the Naval Station Mayport basin on 22 May 1995 by USNS Powhatan, heading for Philadelphia to become part of the Navy's inactive fleet on June 7, 1995 . Sara's two 30-ton anchors were slated for possible use aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75).

Ex-USS Saratoga (AVT-60), one of the inactive aircraft carriers mothballed at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, was towed out of Philadelphia for the last time 03 August 1998 by the Fleet-tug USNS Powhatan (T-ATF-166). Saratoga was the first of three deep-draft vessels to be relocated to Newport, RI, for storage. The relocation was done as part of the lease arrangement between the Navy, the City of Philadelphia and Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard and as a result of BRAC-91. Saratoga arrived at the Naval Education and Training Center's Pier 1 in Coddington Cove on 07 August 1998 returning a Navy ship presence to Newport that has been missing from that historically Navy town for many years. ex-USS Forrestal (AVT/CV 59) and ex-USS Iowa (BB 61) joined Saratoga in Newport in mid-September 1998. None of the ships were open to the public.

USS Ranger (CV-61), the seventh ship to bear the name, carried on the traditions of the previous six ships, beginning with the Continental Navy ship commanded by Captain John Paul Jones during the War of Independence. In December 1990, the U.S. Pacific Fleet assets deployed to the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea, in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM were joined by the USS RANGER (CV 61) battle group. In August 1992, on USS RANGER's last cruise, the ship deployed to the Western Pacific/Arabian Gulf, flying in Operations SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq and PROVIDE HOPE in Somalia. The USS Ranger Museum Foundation, Inc., is an incorporated, registered, non-profit Washington State organization that was conceived in 1997 and now incorporated for the purpose of securing a decommissioned super carrier for a museum and Navy memorial. The USS RANGER CV-61 was selected as the most appropriate vessel. It is negotiating with the City of Everett, WA as the home port for this ship.

USS Independence (CV 62) was commissioned as a Forrestal-class attack aircraft carrier (CVA 62) at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard, New York, on January 10, 1959. In June 1988 Independence completed The Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The ship changed homeports on September 11, 1991, deploying to Yokosuka Japan to become the Navy's only forward deployed aircraft carrier. On June 30, 1995, the 36-year-old Independence became the oldest ship in the Navy's active fleet, the first aircraft carrier to hold the honor. On 10 March 1996, following China`s intent to conduct live fire war games off the coast of Taiwan, Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced that the Independence was being moved closer to the Taiwan Straits. The last of the Forrestal class fossil-fueled carriers, the ship was scheduled to decommission in the Fall of 1998. USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), homeported in San Diego, California, departed 15 July 1998 for Yokosuka, Japan, where replaced USS Independence (CV 62) as part of a planned rotation of forward-deployed naval forces. Subequently Independence returned to the United States, and was decommissioned on 30 September 1998.

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