Saying goodbye to the USS Enterprise, America's first nuclear aircraft carrier and the only ship in its class, has been challenging for naval enthusiasts and those who served aboard her during her 50 year long career. Well, it appears a piece of her will live on in the form of one of the USS Abraham Lincoln's 60,000lb anchors.
The Abraham Lincoln, the fifth ship in the Nimitz Class lineage, is undergoing a complex overhaul at Newport News Shipyard, in Virginia. This overhaul is the most invasive one the carrier will ever see in its 50 year career, and is as much a complete mid-life update as 'just' a nuclear refueling.
Originally, the refueling and overhauling of the USS Abraham Lincoln, along with her forward deployed comrade, the USS George Washington, was in doubt due to the sequester cash crunch (only the DoD would throw away a multi-billion dollar carrier after only half its design life!). Now both ships are slated to receive the overhauls they require and serve for many decades to come.
During the Abraham Lincoln's initial overhaul evaluation, which happened shorty after its arrival at Newport News Shipyard, it was noted that one of her two anchors would have to be replaced. A nuclear carrier's anchors are not just another big-ship anchor, they are 30 ton behemoths that have to be custom built to accommodate the carrier's unique design.
A couple hundred yards down the pier from the USS Abraham Lincoln, the iconic USS Enterprise, is being readied to be stricken from the Navy register and just happened to have a donor anchor that was in great condition and was a perfect physical match for the Lincoln's younger anchor.
The Enterprise's anchor was originally cast in 1962 and has been worn by the ship throughout its half-century long illustrious career, so not only will the Abraham Lincoln's new addition save the tax payer a tons of money (excuse the pun) but it will also infuse the ship with the "Big E's" spirit and legacy. Hence both ships will be tied together, which makes additional sense as the Enterprise will be struck from the Navy register in 2016, just as the Abraham Lincoln begins its sea trials before her induction back into the fleet.
It is not clear if this historic donor anchor will be painted like its younger twin, or if its historical significance will be visually accounted for. I for one think a metallic blue paint job would be ideal under the circumstances, with the other anchor wearing the traditional gray or metallic gold paint found on other US Navy surface combatants.
The survival of the "Big E's" anchor also comes as good news seeing as many were upset that the USS Enterprise CVN-65 did not have a replacement to bear her much-touted name, with the USS Gerald R. Ford CVN-78 leading the next class of nuclear carriers, followed by the USS John F. Kennedy CVN-79.
CVN-80, the third of the new but troubled Ford Class Carriers, should be launched towards the end of 2020s and is slated to be named Enterprise, but even if the carrier force is not cut further, that would leave the US Navy without an Enterprise for over a decade and a half. If indeed the Enterprise does get built within the next couple of decades, she would be the 9th US Navy ship to bear the famous name.
With past super carrier names being pushed over onto smaller ships, such as the USS America being put on the first in the class of the Navy's new "LHA" class of Marine-centric mini carriers, and the USS Independence being applied to a Littoral Combat Ship, waiting close to twenty years for CVN-80 to be christened Enterprise may be well worth it. Until then, a part of the Enterprise will sail on with the Abraham Lincoln, and with any luck, that anchor will still be in good enough condition to find a home on CVN-80 as the Lincoln nears the end of her service life.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com