USS Kitty Hawk CVA-63 (later CV-63) 1970s

Chronology and Significant Events 1970s:

11 Oct 1969–8 Mar 1970: Kitty Hawk underwent an “extensive overhaul,” Drydock No. 6, Bremerton. Light-off from cold iron status was conducted on 25 March.

28 Apr 1970: The ship completed dock trials.

16–18 May 1970: Kitty Hawk carried out sea trials.

22 Jun 1970: The ship returned to NAS North Island.

24–28 Aug 1970: During carrier qualifications, patrol gunboat Beacon (PG-99) performed as plane guard, the first time a PG did so for Kitty Hawk, which reciprocated by refueling Beacon at sea, also a first for the two ships, on the 26th.

3 Sep 1970: Kitty Hawk was the dress ship for President Richard M. Nixon’s visit with Mexican President Gustavo O. Díaz.

15 Sep 1970: Kitty Hawk completed her first JP-5 fuel underway replenishment to a destroyer type vessel, to escort ship Albert David (DE-1050).

16 Sep 1970: LT Michael V. Riggio, VF-213, made the first Mode 1 landing via the newly installed ACLS, in his F-4J.

23 Sep–2 Oct 1970: Kitty Hawk participated with two other carriers in RopEval 4-70, an “intensive readiness and operational evaluation” exercise in the Southern California Operations Area.

8–29 Dec 1970: Kitty Hawk completed her first line period of this WestPac deployment, aircrew flying 1,320 strike and 542 combat support sorties over Laos and 32 strike sorties over South Vietnam.

13 Jan–3 Feb 1971: Kitty Hawk accomplished her second line period of the deployment. Aircrew flew interdiction strikes against enemy lines of communication in Laos and South Vietnam.

21 Feb–31 Mar 1971: The ship completed her third line period of this WestPac deployment. “Heavy reaction” by North Vietnamese troops against South Vietnamese columns during Operation Lam Son 719, the latter’s ground offensive westward into southern Laos to Tchepone, “offered vulnerable targets” to aircrew, who struck tanks, trucks, and moving troops. Recovering quickly, the enemy took advantage of adverse weather to regroup with minimal interference from the air, overrunning one South Vietnamese position after another by attacking them closely enough that aircrew could not support their hard-pressed Allies without endangering friendly troops.

21 Mar 1971: Aircrew “swept” into North Vietnam against SAM support and logistic facilities in Operation Fracture Cross Alpha, a joint retaliatory operation with their USAF counterparts.

10–25 Apr 1971: During her fourth line period of this deployment, aircrew were taken under fire by North Vietnamese AAA at Quan Lang Airfield, while providing “protective reaction” for a Blue Tree RA-5C reconnaissance flight. The pilots responded by blasting the gunners, wreaking “incidental destruction” to two MiG-21F Fishbeds on strip alert.

4–16 May 1971: The ship completed her fifth line period of this WestPac deployment.

30 May 1971: ADM Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., CNO, visited the ship.

30 May–23 Jun 1971: Kitty Hawk accomplished her 6th and final line period of the cruise. During this WestPac deployment aircraft dropped 22,540,051 tons of ordnance on the enemy.

1 Jul 1971: Four Soviet Bear Ds attempted to overfly Kitty Hawk on a surveillance mission. Her F-4J CAP intercepted the Russians while they were still 100 nautical miles out, as she transited eastward toward the U.S.

16 Aug–19 Oct 1971: The ship completed a RAV, the first time that the “shipyard came to the ship,” all work being done at Pier Mike-November, NAS North Island.

Feb 1972: During her transit into the Western Pacific, Kitty Hawk detoured 280 miles to emergency evacuate SN Jesse Harrell, suffering from acute appendicitis, from ammunition ship Vesuvius (AE-15), between Midway and Wake Islands. Harrell was returned to Vesuvius in good condition at Subic Bay.

8–25 Mar 1972: The ship completed her first line period of the cruise, all sorties being flown under “strict control” by forward air controllers (FACs).

23 Mar 1972: Jury 307, NF-307, an A-7E (BuNo 157520), LT Dennis S. Pike, VA-192, crashed while “dive bombing” targets, about 60 nautical miles southwest of Da Nang tactical air navigation (TACAN) in southeastern Laos, at 1208. Noting what he believed to be a “compressor stall” during his first run, Pike began a second run to jettison his remaining ordnance, before aborting and heading east. Responding to inquiries concerning his condition, Pike replied: “Negative, vibrations too bad, I am going to have to leave it.” At the time of writing, Pike’s status is “Presumptive finding of death.”

3 Apr–22 May 1972: Responding to the “Easter Offensive,” a North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam, Kitty Hawk was “recalled early” from Subic Bay, completing her second line period of the deployment. Among these operations were night diversionary strikes against SAM sites in the Vinh, Thanh Hoa, and Hai Phong areas in support of USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses, and almost daily strikes against communist troops battling Allied forces in the South, with air power proving instrumental in halting the enemy’s advance.

6 Apr 1972: Chippy 415, an A-7E (BuNo 158006), CDR Mason C. Gilfry, VA-195, hit by a SAM while inbound to its target, a reconnaissance and strike against a road, crashed at sea, 17º44’N, 106º38’E. Gilfry was recovered by Big Mother 60, a Navy SAR helo.

14 Apr 1972: Linfield 203, an F-4J (BuNo 157252), LT Joseph G. Greenleaf, and LT Clemie McKinney, VF-114, the number two aircraft on a three-plane strike against a communist POL target, was shot down by 23 or 37 mm AAA, west of Quang Tri, South Vietnam, at 1530, near 16º48’N, 106º54’E.

6 May 1972: Two F-4Js from VF-114, one flown by LT Robert G. Hughes, and LT(JG) Adolph J. Cruz, and the other Phantom II operated by LCDR Kenneth W. Pettigrew, and LT(JG) Michael J. McCabe, shot down a pair of North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds with AIM-9 Sidewinders.

7 May 1972: An RA-5C (BuNo 151618), CDR Clarence R. Polfer, and LT(JG) Joseph E. Kernan, RVAH-7, was shot down (probable AAA)during a photo reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam, at 1745. Both men were captured, only returning home on 28 March 1973.

9 May 1972: Aircrew flew 17 diversionary sorties during the early morning hours supporting Operation Pocket Money, the mining of Haiphong harbor.

1–27 Jun 1972: During her third line period of the cruise, aircrew dropped 23 AGM-62A Walleye guided glide bombs, including six Walleye IIs, and 18 laser-guided bombs, in addition to standard ordnance, on North Vietnamese military targets. The presence of Chinese merchant ships at the Hon Nieu and Hon La anchorages prompted extensive reconnaissance flights over those areas.

17 Jun 1972: An A-7E (BuNo 157531), CDR Darrel D. “Bud” Owens, VA-192, was shot down by an SA-2 SAM while flying rescue combat air patrol, following the coastline south of Thanh Hoa. Owens flew the stricken Corsair II to within six nautical miles of Kitty Hawk before losing control and ejecting, 19º37’N, 105º47’E, at 0948, being recovered by Big Mother, an SH-3G SAR helo.

19 Jun 1972: Blacklion 107, an F-4J (BuNo 157273), LCDR Roy Cash, Jr., and LT Ronald J. Laib, VF-213, was damaged by 23 mm AAA while passing Hon Nieu Island, North Vietnam, during a surveillance mission. Cash flew the Phantom II to within three miles astern of Kitty Hawk, steaming in the Gulf of Tonkin, before both men were forced to eject at 0728, being recovered by a Big Mother SAR helo.

8 Jul–4 Aug 1972: The ship completed her fourth line period of the deployment.
14 Aug–5 Sep 1972: Kitty Hawk conducted her fifth line period of this WestPac deployment, departing the Gulf of Tonkin to evade Typhoon Elsie, 1–4 September.

17 Aug 1972: Linfield 211, an F-4J (BuNo 157262), CDR John R. Pitzen, and LT Orland J. Pender, Jr., VF-114, was shot down by an SA-2 SAM while on night MiG combat air patrol (MIGCAP) north of Haiphong, near 21º1’N, 106º34’E, at 0200. Both Linfield 211 and Viceroy 507, an A-6A, VA-52, it was covering while the latter struck a railroad target, received fire from four other SAMs, together with “heavy” AAA.

20 Aug 1972: Viceroy 502, an A-6A (BuNo 157018), LT Roderick B. Lester, and LT Harry S. Mossman, VA-52, was downed (probable AAA) during a night low level bombing run over Da Mon Toi, North Vietnam, 20º38’N, 107º26’E, at 0153.
22–23 Aug 1972: ADM Zumwalt, CNO, visited the ship.

15 Sep–2 Oct 1972: The carrier accomplished her sixth line period of the cruise. Focusing upon interdiction of communist lines of communication, aircrew were assigned “boxes” designating targets. Inclement weather imposed difficulties that reduced damage, however, and ABHAA T. Goetch fell overboard and was not recovered.

19 Sep 1972: Jury 304, an A-7E (BuNo 158653), LT Warren A. Robb, VA-192, was hit by 23 mm AAA while “rolling-in” on Ninh Xa Highway Bridge, North Vietnam. Robb managed to maintain control long enough to eject over the sea at 18º43’N, 106º11’E, where a Navy SAR helo rescued him.

22 Sep 1972: Four A-7Es, CDR Darrell D. “Bud” Owens, XO, LCDR Melvin Munsinger, LT William H. Shelton, and LT Michael L. Coats, VA-192, flew a night strike to within five miles of the Chinese buffer zone over North Vietnam. Penetrating the coast “about halfway” between the Chinese border and Haiphong, the men navigated through inclement weather to a highway “lit up like the Los Angeles freeway,” packed with enemy vehicles with their lights blazing. Receiving heavy AAA fire, the pilots struck as many as 20 trucks, as well as two flak sites, before making a low-level, high-speed escape with a pair of North Vietnamese MiGs searching for them.

12 Oct–4 Nov 1972: The ship completed her final line period of this deployment. The number of strike sorties was “severely” restricted by higher authority, and on the 23rd, a “no-bomb” line was established on the 20th parallel. Nonetheless, aircraft continued a limited interdiction campaign against communist lines of communication, the code name for nighttime A-6 missions being redesignated as Lurking Bertha. During this WestPac deployment aircrew dropped 26,376,608 tons of ordnance on the enemy. In addition, the ship experienced an “unusually high level of North Vietnamese MiG activity.”

11–13 Oct 1972: A series of racially motivated disturbances occurred on board. Extended deployments and long line periods had produced a nearly intolerable strain on the crew, fueled by the racial tension endemic throughout the armed forces. In a well intentioned effort to alleviate some of the tension, CAPT Marland W. Townsend inadvertently aggravated the situation by allowing African American sailors to berth in the same sleeping quarters without other races, further segregating them from their shipmates and generating disciplinary and habitation problems in those areas. Beginning in the mess decks shortly after 1830 on the 11th, a series of incidents led to fighting between blacks and whites that spread across a number of areas of the ship, including sick bay and the flight deck. Kitty Hawk’s marine detachment conducted patrols to restore order, following regulation crowd control procedures by attempting to prevent groups of more than three sailors to congregate, and maintained a reaction force of 12 men. Some black sailors, however, interpreted the leathernecks’ efforts as racist and armed themselves with aircraft tie-down chains. CAPT Townsend and CDR Benjamin W. Cloud, the XO (and black) addressed the rioters several times. “If you follow the practices of a Gandhi, and of Martin Luther King, Jr., you can live tomorrow and the next day in pride and respect,” the latter said to a group gathered on the flight deck at one point, “but if you continue to use the tactics that you are using here tonight, the only thing that you can guarantee is your death, and the further worsening of the situation that you are trying to correct.” CDR Cloud’s conciliatory efforts helped diffuse the situation promptly. “He is a brother!” one of the disaffected men responded, “Let’s do it your way. We are with you all the way.” The crowd gradually dispersed, throwing weapons overboard. Due to the great size of the ship, while many men were never aware of the riots, sleeping through them, others anxiously waited the crisis out behind secured hatches. The captain did not sound general quarters, which would have disrupted flight operations against the North Vietnamese during Operation Linebacker I, the ship resuming strikes at 0758 on the 13th. The medical department reported 47 injuries, though as many as 60 men were rumored to have been treated. The Understanding Personal Worth and Racial Dignity (UPWARD) program soon followed, establishing a medium for addressing racial concerns on board.

24 Oct 1972: Arab 501, an A-6A, VA-115, embarked on board Midway, fractured the axle of its right main gear while recovering. Skipping the arresting gear, it skidded up the flight deck into planes spotted forward. Five sailors died; 23 suffered injuries. Kitty Hawk “raced to within helo distance,” offering assistance.

2 Nov 1972: An A-7E (BuNo 157530), LT Richard G. Deremer, VA-192, was struck by AAA while bombing the Tap Phuc Railroad Bridge, North Vietnam. LT Deremer returned to within seven miles aft of the ship before ejecting. A Navy SAR helo recovered him at 1140 at 17º25’N, 107º50’E.

14–21 Nov 1972: While steaming eastward toward Pearl Harbor in company with guided missile frigate Gridley (DLG-21) and escort ship Harold E. Holt (DE-1074), the ship practiced emissions control of electronic signals, avoiding Soviet overflights.

9 Jan–10 Jul 1973: The ship completed an extended selected restricted availability (ESRA) at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, in drydock from 14 January–28 April.

29 Apr 1973: Returning to “afloat status” from ESRA Kitty Hawk inaugurated her new role as CV (on 1 July 1975, the Navy replaced the aircraft carrier designation CVA with CV for all such ships still so designated, to improve the accuracy of ship designations reflecting their roles in modern warfare. By removing the letter A, describing attack, the new designation CV could indicate a multi-role ship capable of air, surface and ASW roles, depending upon the types of aircraft embarked and missions assigned. A massive project, Kitty Hawk began reconfiguring into a CV during this overhaul).

17 May 1973: Kitty Hawk lit off her first boiler utilizing distillate fuel.

28–29 Jun 1973: Kitty Hawk conducted sea trials off San Francisco.

11–20 Sep 1973: The ship participated in RimPac ’73, a “multi-nation” exercise involving upward of 23 ships, 200 aircraft and 14,000 sailors.

15 Oct 1973: A congressional delegation arrived on board to survey Naval Aviators relative to restructuring flight pay fleet wide.

23 Nov 1973–9 Jul 1974: The main emphasis of the ship’s ninth WestPac deployment was to establish and test doctrines for the CV concept. The demanding pace of operations in the Indian Ocean became “an engineer’s test of endurance.” Kitty Hawk spent 144 days (63%) at sea. While CVW-11 deployed with 116 aircraft assigned, due to space restrictions on board, VS-33 (S-2Gs) and HS-8 (SH-3Ds) did not deploy.

6 Dec 1973: Four F-4J Phantom IIs, VFs-114 and 213, intercepted two Soviet Tu-95 Bears shadowing Kitty Hawk, at a range of over 100 nautical miles from the carrier, escorting the “intruders” during some tense moments, before the Russians came about at 44 nautical miles.

11 Dec 1973: A Class Bravo fire erupted in No. 1 Main Machinery Room, at approximately 1800. Five of the 20 sailors on duty in that space died: FA Samuel J. Cardena, 20, FA Alan J. Champine, 18, FA Joseph P. Tulipana, 19, FR Kevin W. Johnson, 17, and FR Limm C. Schambers, 19. An additional 34 sailors were treated for smoke inhalation, several also receiving “minor injuries.” A fuel leak spraying into the machinery space from a strainer in the fuel line between the storage tanks and fuel tanks caused the inferno. The crew held memorial services on the foc’sle for their fallen shipmates the next day, at 1900.

31 Dec 1973: The first “thousandth” trap of the WestPac, her 147,000th, was accomplished two hours before midnight by a Grumman S-2G Tracker, LT Daniel George, and LT(JG) Gary L. Timmerman, Air Antisubmarine Squadron (VS)-38, the ship’s first as a CV by her anti-submarine warfare team.

22 Feb–1 May 1974: Kitty Hawk steamed in the Indian Ocean, focusing upon coordinated air operations, including “composite, power projection and sea control modes.”

12–14 Mar 1974: Kitty Hawk operated within Point Ash, Arabian Sea, emphasizing anti-submarine warfare and hydrographic operations.

27 Mar 1974: LT William P. “Maddog” Redmond, and LT(JG) Ronald L. “Killer” Miller, VF-114, completed the ship’s 150,000th landing, in an F-4J.

2–11 Apr 1974: Following a visit to Mombasa, Kenya, Kitty Hawk again operated within Point Ash.

8 Apr 1974: An entourage led by ADM Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman, JCS, and Mohammad R. Shah Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, visited the ship while she steamed in the Indian Ocean.

9–17 Apr 1975: The ship completed CompTuEx 1-75, WepTraEx, and NorEx, in The Southern California Operations Area.

21–27 Apr 1975: Kitty Hawk participated in ReadiEx 5-75 in the Southern California Operations Area.

29 May 1975: An F-4J, VF-114, experienced a “serious control malfunction” while launching and crashed about 26 miles from the ship. A plane guard Sea King from HS-8, CDR David L. Larson, LCDR Nils S. Sandberg, AW2 Rogers, and AWAN Reese, rescued the crew.

10 Jun 1975: While steaming northwest of Wake Island, the ship experienced a “major engineering casualty,” at about midnight. A steam line ruptured, followed by the malfunction of a sea valve, causing flooding in No. 1 Main Machinery Room. The ship’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team and “R” Division contained the flooding by “hazardous and arduous labor,” enabling the carrier to continue operations, and there were no people casualties. Principal repairs were overseen by Ship Repair Facility (SRF) Subic Bay while moored, Alava Pier, NAS Cubi Point, Philippines, 19–30 Jun.

13 Jun 1975: Two Soviet Tu-95 Bears reconnoitered Kitty Hawk. Altogether, VF-114 intercepted Russian bombers inbound toward the carrier five times during this WestPac deployment.

23 Sep 1975: AMS3 Andrew J. Wantulok, HS-8, was killed while working on an SH-3D as the helo was preparing to launch.

27–30 Oct 1975: While transiting the Sea of Japan–entering through the Tsugaru Strait and departing via the Tsushima Strait–the ship was subject to shadowing by Russian Tupolev Tu-16 Badgers and ships, including a Kashin-class [Project 61] guided missile destroyer.

8 Nov 1975: Aircraft No. 725, an SH-3D, LCDR Sandberg, LT(JG) Osterlund, AW2 Michael S. Terrell, and AWAN Bowman, HS-8, and LT Majors, VAQ-136, was forced to “ditch” near the ship due to engine failure. Another Sea King, LCDR James B. Chester, LCDR Lynn H. Nelsen, AW3 Don S. Spaulding, and AWAN Bauer, rescued the men.

8 Mar 1976: Kitty Hawk sailed from Pier Oscar-Papa, NAS North Island, for PSNS, to begin a complex overhaul.

12 Mar–27 Sep 1976: The ship entered Drydock No. 6, PSNS, shifting to Pier 6 at the latter facility.

12–13 Mar 1977: Kitty Hawk completed dock trials and a fast cruise.

24–27 Mar 1977: The ship conducted sea trials, her first air operations in 51 weeks.

9–15 Sep 1977: CompTuEx 3-77 enabled the crew to test their mettle against “threats of graduated magnitude.”

25 Oct–1 Nov 1977: Kitty Hawk’s voyage into the Western Pacific included a MissilEx, MinEx Bravo, GunEx, BombEx, JamEx, and KomarEx.

2–23 Nov 1977: TransitEx 2-78 was a “comprehensive” anti-submarine warfare exercise.

10 Nov 1977: During the late afternoon, a pair of Soviet Tu-95 Bear Ds shadowed the ship in the vicinity of Wake Island.

6 Dec 1977: Two Russian Tu-16 Badgers conducted “close-in reconnaissance of the ship in an area northeast of Tsushima Island.

8 Feb–23 Mar 1978: Somali forces attempting to secede the Ogaden, a territory within the Horn of Africa (HOA), from Ethiopia and join it to Somalia, invaded the Ogaden. Kitty Hawk was anticipating a “lengthy port visit” in Subic Bay, however, following the collapse of the Somali invasion, she was ordered to a holding point in the South China Sea north of Singapore, to be on call to respond to the impending crisis, principally over concerns about the possible need to evacuate Americans trapped by the fighting. The ship was released prior to being sent into the Indian Ocean, on 23 March.

9 May 1978: ADM Donald C. Davis, Director, Navy Program Planning, the ship’s seventh skipper, relieved ADM Thomas B. Hayward as CINCPAC, on board Kitty Hawk while she lay moored at NS Pearl Harbor.

14–18 Jan 1979: Kitty Hawk conducted shipboard trials for A-4Ms and F-4Ss.

21 Feb 1979: An SH-3D (BuNo 154111), LT Michael T. Fuqua, 28, LT(JG) Jerome L. Kauphusman, 27, AW2 Albert C. Blondeel-Tmmerman, and AW3 Robert J. Cook, HS-8, launched at 0743. When three nautical miles off the starboard bow of Kitty Hawk, sudden engine and/or main transmission difficulties necessitated an immediate “autorotation to water.” Entering the sea at 32º9’7”N, 118º32’1”W, the Sea King floated for almost 62 minutes, rolling over at 0830 and sinking at 0858. An SH-3H, LCDR Robert F. Duggan, LT(JG) Donald E. Pletcher, AW2 Stephen Strait, and AWAN Steven Walker, HS-8, rescued the SH-3D’s entire crew by 0812. The SAR crew was backed up by an H-46, HS-10, inbound from North Island, which orbited the downed crew.

11 Mar 1979: During the midwatch, AA John Scott, V-3 Division, fell overboard, being rescued by an HS-8 Sea King: LTs Robert J. Vernon and David A. Dahmen, AW2 Phil Guinn, and AW3 Ken Fletcher.

19–20 Jun 1979: Soviet Tu-95 Bears twice reconnoitered the ship while she sailed westward.

16 Jul–15 Aug 1979: During two underway periods in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand, the ship located and directed rescue vessels which embarked 114 “boat people,” refugees escaping from Indochina.

23–29 Aug 1979: Super Typhoon Judy “disrupted” Fortress Gale, a large-scale amphibious exercise in the Okinawa area, forcing the ship to evade the storm.

4–8 Sep 1979: While steaming toward Subic Bay the ship encountered a transiting Soviet task group led by a Sverdlov-class cruiser.

8 Sep 1979: Old Nick 203 (NL-203), an F-14A (BuNo 160672), LT Lloyd A. Vermillion, and LT(JG) Richard W. Cummings, VF-111, launched at 1933 for a night carrier qualifications, while the ship steamed in the South China Sea. About 27 seconds into the flight, the “classic thump bang” and a series of flashes on the starboard side of the Tomcat indicated an engine fire. Unable to regain control, both men ejected, being recovered by a SAR helo.

11 Oct 1979: A ship’s engineering casualty forced aircraft aloft to divert to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

12–19 Oct 1979: Super Typhoon Tip slammed across the northern Pacific, passing within 90 nautical miles of Yokosuka, while Kitty Hawk lay moored at that port. At one point, the ship endured winds as high as 45 knots (gusting to 65) belying earlier criticism of her construction by suffering no damage. The crew estimated that she could experience 20–25% higher winds with “no appreciable difficulties.”

26 Oct–5 Nov 1979: During contingency operations in the wake of the assassination of South Korean President Park C. Lee, Kitty Hawk cancelled her participation of MultiPleEx 1-80 barely 10 hours into the exercise, coming about and steaming to a position in the East China Sea off Cheju Do, standing down on the 5th. Aircrew flew cyclic flight operations within the detection envelope of North Korean early warning radars, demonstrating to Pyŏngyang U.S. resolve to support the South Koreans, and helping to ease the crisis.

15–21 Nov 1979: Kitty Hawk arrived at Subic Bay, preparing for a 28 November departure for NAS North Island. During this period, however, Iran’s pro-Western government collapsed, however, forcing the Shah into exile in the U.S. Tensions among opposition groups produced a state of near-anarchy within the troubled land. One of the more radical groups, “Students Following the Imam’s Line,” blamed the U.S. for the discord, and sought to mobilize support for their policies by seizing the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, on 4 November 1979. Receiving tacit approval from the Ayatollah R. Khomeini, the extremists continued to hold 52 American hostages. America was outraged by the act, the government responding by sending Kitty Hawk to the region, which was underway on the 21st within 12 hours of receiving her orders.

28 Nov 1979: Kitty Hawk arrived in the vicinity of Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. NL 626, an EA-6B (BuNo 158541), CDR Peter T. Rodrick, squadron CO, LCDR William J. Coffey, LT James B. Bradley, Jr., and LT(JG) John R. Chorey, VAQ-135, launched for a scheduled electronic support measures (ESM) mission, at 1324, at 07º33’S, 073º19’E. Kitty Hawk was under EMCON A conditions, which prohibited electronic emissions from either the ship or the Prowler. Within two minutes the Prowler passed close abeam of guided missile cruiser Jouett (CG-29), about eight nautical miles ahead of the carrier. The EA-6B suddenly executed a “near vertical climbing turn,” partial cloud cover obscuring further observation of the aircraft, though it is surmised that the crew was practicing a “low level ingress tactic.” Though not verified, it is believed the Prowler impacted the water at approximately 13 miles off the port beam of Kitty Hawk, 63 nautical miles from Diego Garcia, at 1505. Despite determined efforts by two SH-3Hs from the carrier and a Lockheed P-3 Orion from Diego Garcia, none of the men were recovered.

4 Dec 1979–23 Jan 1980: Kitty Hawk operated at “Camel Station,” in the northwestern Arabian Sea as flagship, TF 70 and TG 70.2 (Battle Group Bravo). Throughout the Iranian Hostage Crisis she was under “constant surveillance” by Soviet ships and submarines, and CVW-15 aircraft “intercepted and escorted frequent” Soviet Ilyushin Il-38 Mays and Il-22 Cubs flying out of Aden, South Yemen, the Mays at three-day intervals; Iranian P-3Fs on three occasions; Omani SEPECAT Jaguars six times; an Iranian Lockheed C-130 Hercules and an Egyptian Hercules, reconnoitering the carrier. Despite strenuous efforts by logistics people in the supply chain, the exigencies of the extended deployment caused numerous problems for the crew due to shortages, especially of spare parts. Aircrew conducted small arms familiarization, and 10 leathernecks from Kitty Hawk’s marine detachment trained as door gunners on board HS-8’s Sea Kings in preparation for “air-sea rescue missions in case of hostilities during Iranian contingencies.” In addition, following a revolution in Afghanistan beginning on 27 April 1979, and the subsequent Soviet invasion on 24 December, the U.S. decided to maintain two carrier battle groups on station in the Indian Ocean.

28 Dec 1979: During an exercise with the Pakistanis, an HS-8 SH-3H detected an “unidentified contact in international waters,” and prosecuted the contact to protect Kitty Hawk. The submarine surfaced, revealing a Pakistani Agosta-class boat. During the same evolution, a Daphne-class sub also tracked the carrier, but was herself tracked by HS-8.

29 Dec 1979: NL 521, a KA-6D (BuNo 152632), CDR Walter D. Williams, Jr., and LCDR Bruce L. Miller, VA-52, launched from No. 2 catapult on a scheduled tanker sortie, at 1415. Almost immediately, NL 521 settled off the bow, due probably to low airspeed resulting from catapult errors (129 knots was the required airspeed; the KA-6D had attained only 92). A plane guard helo (HS-8) ¼ mile aft of the ship, immediately initiated a SAR, supported by a helo from HC-1 Det 2, embarked in Midway, and by destroyer David R. Ray (DD-971). Those concerted efforts proved fruitless: neither of the men survived.