BREMERTON, Wash. — The fate of the former USS Kitty Hawk — a part of Bremerton's iconic waterfront of mothballed ships for more than eight years — has been determined.
The Kitty Hawk (CV 63) will be disposed of by dismantling, according to Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Colleen O'Rourke.
O'Rourke cited an annual report to Congress that outlines the Navy's five-year shipbuilding plans. In this fiscal year's edition, released in April 2016, the Kitty Hawk was listed as one of the Navy's inactive ships slated for scrapping.
The Navy has not yet determined when the Kitty Hawk will depart its berthing in Bremerton, where the ship will go to be dismantled or what company will be awarded the contract, O'Rourke said.
Previous aircraft carriers berthed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, including the USS Independence (CV 62), USS Ranger (CV 61) and USS Constellation (CV 64) were sent to Brownsville, Texas, for scrapping.
The Kitty Hawk was decommissioned at PSNS in 2009 after 48 years of active service. The ship has been held in reserve status at the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Bremerton ever since.
During the ship's active service, the Kitty Hawk participated in combat operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and in the Arabian Sea during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Kitty Hawk was the fleet's only permanently forward-deployed carrier in Yokosuka, Japan, from 1998 to 2008.
The Kitty Hawk was the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier in active service in the fleet. There are currently 10 nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers and one Ford-class carrier in active service, with construction on two more Ford-class carriers in progress.
Then-Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter sent a letter to Congress in 2008 expressing his intent to hold the Kitty Hawk in reserve status until the USS Gerald R. Ford's commissioning, O'Rourke said. The Ford (CVN 78), the first and namesake of the newest class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, was commissioned on July 22. The Naval Vessel Register currently lists the Kitty Hawk as out of commission, in reserve, but it has not been updated since September 2015, two years before the Ford's commissioning.
Over the years, speculation on the Kitty Hawk's fate has ranged from recommissioning the ship back into active service to turning the ship into a museum.
The Navy's 2016 force structure assessment called for increasing the active service fleet size from between 270 to 290 ships up to 355 ships, including increasing the number of active service aircraft carriers from 11 to 12.
Although the Navy had once considered the possibility of recommissioning the Kitty Hawk to increase the size of the fleet, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said that would be cost prohibitive in a recent interview with the Kitsap Sun.
"The business case for the Kitty Hawk would be a fairly big stretch," Spencer said.
O'Rourke said the Kitty Hawk was not selected for possible museum donation and the Navy will not be accepting applications for such a donation, despite numerous groups who have expressed interest in preserving the ship as a museum.
The USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), a variation of the Kitty Hawk-class carriers, was the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier built. It was decommissioned in 2007 and is currently berthed at the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia. Unlike the Kitty Hawk, the carrier is currently eligible for donation as a museum.