'Big E' Makes Final Suez Canal Transit

Press Release
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
USS Enterprise Passes Through Suez: Photo credit USN

Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) has made what is most probably her last Suez transit on way back to US Naval Base, Norfolk.

On April 29, 1986, Enterprise did something that no other nuclear-powered carrier had ever done - she transited the Suez Canal, adding another first to an already long list of accomplishments. 

Twenty-six years later, on Oct. 12, the "Big E" passed through the Suez Canal for the final time as she transitioned from the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) to U.S. 6th Fleet AOR, entering the Mediterranean Sea for the last time.

The canal transit marks the beginning of the last leg of the carrier's historic 25th and final deployment, after seven months of operations at sea. 

Because the canal is so shallow and narrow, the transit puts the skills of even the most seasoned helmsman to the test, as the canal was not originally designed to accommodate ships the size of an aircraft carrier. In fact, the evolution usually takes anywhere from 14-20 hours to complete.

"Planning for this type of evolution starts months out to try to minimize any hiccups," said Chief Quartermaster Craig J. Bowman. "We (Navigation department) lay out the ship's planned track with proposed or planned times to be at certain places. Other departments on the ship take the information we provide and plan when and where they can or can't do evolutions - or when they need to shut off or stop certain services."

Enterprise is scheduled to return to its homeport of Norfolk at the end of its current deployment to begin its inactivation process after 51 years of service.

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