USS Kitty Hawk CVA-63 (later CV-63) 1990-2005

Chronology and Significant Events 1990-2005:

26 Jan 1990: The crew reoccupied administrative, berthing, and food services spaces in the aft compartments of the ship.

28 Apr 1990: Kitty Hawk moved from Drydock No. 5 to Pier 6E, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

4 Sep 1990: Secretary of the Navy announced that Kitty Hawk’s new home port would be NAS North Island, promulgated by CNO on 4 March 1991 and effective 28 August. Under the original SLEP plan she was to have been assigned to NAS Pensacola, Fla.

12 Oct 1990: The Balance Crew Training Det was disestablished. Approximately 1,400 sailors in total transitioned through the det.

27 Oct 1990: The ship conducted her first catapult dead load certification test since SLEP began.

28 Feb 1991: Due to the demands of the SLEP, program completion was extended to 31 May. On that date it was again extended, to 30 July.

29 Mar–8 Apr 1991: Kitty Hawk completed builder’s sea trials off the Virginia capes.

30 Jul 1991: Kitty Hawk sailed from Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

2 Aug 1991: CAPT Daniel L. Rainey, Jr., CO, recommended to AirLant that the ship’s SLEP be considered complete. Assistant CNO (Air Warfare) so directed six days later. The ship then fell under the command of Commander, TF 41.

2 Aug 1991: LTs Ronald P. Townsend, and Dee L. Mewbourne, Naval Air Test Center (NATC) Patuxent River, Md., made the first trap on board since June 1987, in an A-6E, off the Virginia Capes.

5 Aug 1991: Kitty Hawk conducted her first UnRep since SLEP began, with replenishment oiler Kalamazoo (AOR-6).

9 Aug 1991: The ship arrived at NS Norfolk. During the next two months she conducted independent steaming exercises and carrier qualifications, with CVW-3 embarked.

18 Oct 1991: The ship sailed from Norfolk to NAS North Island, with CVW-15 and a detachment from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR)-30 embarked.

3 Dec 1991: A class “Bravo” fire erupted around the fuel oil service strainer on the upper level, port side, No. 2 Main Machinery Room, 0410–0847, approximately 300 miles southwest of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. All of the men in the space were evacuated. Installed fire-fighting systems extinguished the fire by 0513, however, additional “de-smoking” and inspection precautions for safety ensured delays in securing. Throughout the ordeal, some sailors were treated for smoke inhalation and “heat stress”: the Fire Marshal, DC2 McGee, DC2 Seals, DC3 Baker, DC3 Hampton, DCFN Boden, DCFN Gilman, DCFN Peskenove, DCFN Snipes, and sailors Galagoes, Humphrey, Houck, Quinttontin, and Rodriguez.

5 Dec 1991: Kitty Hawk transferred from the operational control of Second Fleet to Third Fleet.

11 Dec 1991: The ship arrived at North Island after 55 days at sea.

22 Jun–24 Jul 1992: Kitty Hawk participated in RimPac 1992, in Hawaiian waters. Among elements involved of Battle Force X-Ray were nine Japanese surface ships and submarine Moshishio (SS-574).

1 Aug 1992: The ship was designated as AirPac’s “ready carrier,” requiring her to be on a 96-hour alert status.

31 Aug–10 Sep 1992: Kitty Hawk participated in FleetEx 92-2A, in The Southern California Operations Area. The ship employed operationally for her first time the Navy Tactical Combat System-Afloat 2.0 (NTCS-A 2.0).

21 Sep–1 Oct 1992: Kitty Hawk participated in FleetExs 92-2B and C, in The Southern California Operations Area.

18 Dec 1992: Kitty Hawk relieved Ranger as part of Joint Task Force (JTF) Somalia for Operation Restore Hope, humanitarian relief operations for the people of Somalia. With that country torn by internecine strife, rival warlords were seizing international relief supplies, preventing distribution to famine victims. UN forces designated United Task Force (UNITAF) intervened pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 794; to ensure uninterrupted distribution of these supplies. During Restore Hope Kitty Hawk’s aircraft flew 446 missions in direct support of U.S. and multi-national forces protecting eight “key” UN relief centers: photo reconnaissance by F-14As, VFs-51 and 111, close air support and reconnaissance by F/A-18As, VFAs-27 and 97, and A-6Es, VA-52, and logistics flights by S-3As, VS-35, and Sikorsky SH-60F/H Seahawks, HS-4. In addition, E-2Cs, VAW-114, initially directed about 300 UN relief flights before turning them over to guided missile cruiser Leahy (CG-16) and USMC controllers on the ground for final approach guidance, due to inoperable radars at the airport at Mogadishu. Also involved were Canadian, French, Indian, and Italian naval forces.

20 Dec 1992: Two Tomcats, two Hornets, and two Intruders from Kitty Hawk and CVW-15 supported the U.S. marine and Belgian paratrooper assault on Kisamayu, Somalia.

22 Dec 1992: Marines from the ship’s 59-man detachment joined with the ship’s EOD team and landed to provide security and EOD support during the unloading of food from relief ships at Mogadishu and Baledogle, Somalia. Their efforts proved “instrumental in securing thousands” of weapons and ordnance, including mines, SAMs, and “technical vehicles.”

24 Dec 1992: Aircrew flew close air support and reconnaissance for marines securing Oddur, Somalia, from renegade gangs of thugs and terrorists.

25 Dec 1992: Pilots flew close air support and reconnaissance missions for multi-national forces liberating Bardera, Somalia.

26 Dec 1992: Aircraft operating from the ship provided close air support and reconnaissance for multi-national forces securing Gialalassi, Somalia.

27 Dec 1992: Iraqi jets violated the “No Fly-Zone” below the 32nd parallel, resulting in the loss of a MiG-25 Foxbat to an AIM-120 AMRAAM fired by a USAF General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon. Kitty Hawk was diverted from relief efforts off Somalia and ordered to “proceed at best speed” to the Arabian Gulf, accompanied by Leahy and replenishment oiler Sacramento (AOE-1). Within 12 hours the carrier had 18 combat ready aircraft available for Operation Southern Watch (OSW).

31 Dec 1992: Kitty Hawk transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf. Upon entering the region, she rendezvoused with two other ships of her group, guided missile cruiser Cowpens (CG-63) and guided missile frigate Jarrett (FFG-33). By the New Year, aircrew flew 51 combat air patrol (CAP) sorties with only limited supply support and a “skeleton maintenance organization on scene.”

13 Jan 1993: CDR Kevin J. Thomas, CO, VFA-97, embarked on board Kitty Hawk, led 110 coalition aircraft, including 35 from the carrier, together with USAF and Allied aircrew, on a night strike against Iraqi SAM and command and control sites, southern Iraq. The strike was in response to repeated Iraqi violations of UN resolutions.

18 Jan 1993: Kitty Hawk launched F-14As, F/A-18As, and E-2Cs in support of a USAF strike against Iraqi targets in northern Iraq. A planned strike by 29 aircraft from the ship was aborted, however, when the Iraqis moved mobile SAM targets in southern Iraq.

23 Jan 1993: Iraqi AAA fired on an A-6E, VA-52, and two F/A-18As, all from the ship, over southern Iraq. The Intruder crew blasted the artillery gunners with a 1,000-pound bomb.

3 Feb 1993: Winds gusting over 30 knots generated a sand storm, preventing Kitty Hawk from departing from Jebel-Ali, United Arab Emirates (UAE), during a scheduled four-day visit. The ship was unable to leave until the 5th.

14 Mar 1993: Kitty Hawk transited the Strait of Hormuz, departing the Arabian Gulf.

18 Mar 1993: The ship turned over to Nimitz in the northern Arabian Sea, departing the Commander, Naval Forces, Central Command, AOR.

11 Oct–1 Nov 1993: Internal vibrations in No. 4 Main Engine forced the ship to preempt Tailored Ship’s Training Availabilities (TSTA) in the Southern California Operations Area, returning to NAS North Island. Removing the 8-ton turbine casing on the engine revealed damage to the turbine rotor, on 15 October, which was replaced on the 1st. Initial evidence indicated that the rotor shaft was severely damaged, possibly by industrial debris left over from SLEP.
5 Jun–7 Sep 1993: The ship conducted an SRA costing approximately $30 million.

19–20 Feb 1994: A motion picture crew embarked to shoot a portion of the movie Clear and Present Danger. Included in the filming was a “B-Roll” by an F/A-18A Hornet, VFA-303, with an inert “smart” weapon.

11 Jul 1994: While approaching the “severely” pitching flight deck, Aircraft 102, an F-14A, VF-51, struck the ramp, breaking in two and exploding into a “fireball.” Part of the Tomcat slid off the port side. Both men ejected and were rescued, however, the pilot landed in the “inferno,” suffering severe burns. The mishap occurred about 250 nautical miles south-southwest of NAF Atsugi, Japan.

20 Jul 1994: The ship began operating with Japanese forces, followed by South Korean, the latter on the 24th. Due to the death of North Korean President Kim Il Sung, on 8 July, and North Korean intransigence regarding inspection of their nuclear program, the Korean peninsula trembled in a state of turmoil, with possible scenarios ranging from a North Korean attack against South Korea, to a coup within rival factions in Pyŏngyang. As a result, the ship operated at a high state of alert throughout this period, and later received commendation by AirPac and ComCruDesGru-5 for providing “the stability in the region” for successful negotiations that defused the crisis. Also during this deployment, Kitty Hawk led the first anti-submarine warfare prosecution of a Chinese Han-class sub contact, as well as a Russian Oscar II-class boat, the latter 7–8 July, both equipped with SSMs posing stand off threats to the carrier.

20–23 Jul 1994: Kitty Hawk participated in RaidEx 94, embarking “several hundred” marines from SPMAGTF with their CH-53 and UN-1N helos as a launching platform to demonstrate the capabilities of marines on board carriers. The ship’s marines acted as “protagonist terrorists” on Ie Shima, near Okinawa.

3 Sep 1994: A Seahawk, HS-4, impacted the water and sank in the East China Sea. All four crewmembers escaped uninjured and were recovered by the plane guard helo and by a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB).

12 Sep 1994: A South Korean entourage led by President Kim Young-sam visited the ship, while she was underway off that country. CVW-15 flew an air power demonstration.

18 Sep 1994: Kitty Hawk conducted the first test of the Threat Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD) system on board a Pacific Fleet carrier.

15 Oct 1994: Secretary of the Navy John Dalton visited the ship, presenting awards to five crewmembers responsible for rescuing the pilot of Aircraft 102 (See 11 July 1994).

17 Oct 1994: The ship broke all of her existing records by recording 401 arrested landings on a single day, a grueling tempo hitherto unmatched since commissioning.

6 Dec 1994: Kitty Hawk recorded her 300,000th trap.

4 Mar 1995: British Prince Michael G.C. Franklin of Kent visited the ship.

22 Mar 1995: Kitty Hawk hosted a reunion by 300 survivors and their families of escort carrier Ommaney Bay (CVE-79), sunk by a Japanese Kamikaze (suicide plane) in the Sulu Sea during the liberation of Luzon, Philippines, 4 January 1945.

25 Jun 1995: EM1 Alesia Hall reported on board Kitty Hawk, beginning the integration of women into the ship’s company.

7 Sep 1995: Secretary of the Navy Dalton visited the ship.

9 Sep 1995: Kitty Hawk hosted the WWII memorial ceremony for the veterans of carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17), followed by the crew’s reunion for escort carrier Chenango (AO-31/ACV/CVHE-28), on the 12th, together with a visit by Saudi Prince Abdul Kassir.

3 Nov 1995: Former President George H.W. Bush visited the ship at North Island.

16 Mar 1996: Secretary of Defense Dr. William J. Perry visited the ship, NAS North Island.

5–19 Aug 1996: Kitty Hawk participated in JTFEx 96-2, Southern California Operations Area .

22 Aug 1996: ADM Jay L. Johnson, CNO, visited the ship, NAS North Island.

20 Sep 1996: The Supply Department installed “Sailor Phones,” telephone card and stamp machines, for the crew to remain in contact with familes while deployed.

17 Nov 1996: The carrier transited the Strait of Malacca.

27 Nov 1996: Kitty Hawk transited the Strait of Hormuz, entering the Arabian Gulf.

29 Nov 1996: Secretary of Defense Dr. William J. Perry visited Kitty Hawk.

3 Dec 1996: ADM Johnson held an “all hands call” on board, accompanied by a party led by VADM Thomas B. Fargo, Commander, Naval Forces, Central Command, and Fifth Fleet, 1030–1250.

16 Feb 1997: Kitty Hawk transited the Strait of Hormuz, departing the Arabian Gulf. During her deployment in the Arabian Gulf, her Surface Watch Team supported expanded UN sanctions enforcing Maritime Interception Operations (MIOs) against Iraqi smuggling, locating, tracking and identifying over 2,500 vessels.

21 May–15 Dec 1997: The ship completed Phase 1, FY 97 Complex Overhaul, NAS North Island.

14 Jul 1997: LTGEN Wu Quanxu, Deputy Chief of Staff, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), visited Kitty Hawk at North Island.

Jan–Feb 1998: The ship completed Phase 2, FY 97 Complex Overhaul, a $110 million project, principally in drydock at Bremerton.

6 Jul–11 Aug 1998: Kitty Hawk sailed from North Island to assume duties as America’s only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier from Independence (CV-62), at Yokosuka. The ship also welcomed on board CVW-5, NAF Atsugi, Japan.

20 Nov 1998: Kitty Hawk received the “First Navy Jack,” designating her as the ship in active status with the “longest total period of active service” in the Fleet, FA Yokosuka.

2 Mar 1999: Kitty Hawk sailed for a planned three-month deployment that included Tandem Thrust, a multi-threat exercise off Guam. Following Tandem Thrust she was ordered to the Arabian Gulf to enforce the No-Fly Zone over Southern Iraq. CVW-5 aircrew flew over 8,800 sorties in 116 days, including 1,300 combat sorties, dropping more than 20 tons of ordnance. Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka on 25 Aug.

2 Jun 1999: Lightning 611, an SH-60F (BuNo 164617), HS-14, on a logistics flight, came about to rescue a man overboard, 13 miles from Kitty Hawk, in the Arabian Gulf. Several days later Lightning 611 participated in a SAR of a downed Tomcat crew, together with HSL-51.

22 Oct 1999: Kitty Hawk deployed to the Sea of Japan to participate in exercises Foal Eagle and AnnualEx 11G.

23 Feb–6 Mar 2000: The ship conducted sea trials, carrier qualifications and training in the Philippine Sea, following an SRA.

11–27 Apr 2000: Kitty Hawk completed work ups in the Guam Operating Area. Many of her aircrew operated ashore from Andersen AFB, Guam, in the Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program. ADM Johnson also visited the ship, at NS Apra, on the 19th.

25 Apr 2000: An SH-60F Seahawk crew, including AW2 Darren Hauptman, and AW3 Drew Ross, HS-14, rescued a man overboard, approximately 96 miles northwest of Guam in the Philippine Sea.

17–20 May 2000: The ship participated in Cobra Gold 2000, an exercise with Thai and Singaporean forces, in the Gulf of Thailand. CVW-5 aircraft also operated ashore from Korat Royal Thai AFB, about 165 miles northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. ADM Fargo, CinCPac, visited the carrier, on the 20th, and Kitty Hawk also completed TSTA.

26 Sep–20 Nov 2000: Kitty Hawk operated in Japanese waters, off Okinawa, and in the Philippine Sea.

17 Oct 2000: While operating in the Sea of Japan Kitty Hawk was overflown by a pair of Russian aircraft, allegedly a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer and Su-27 Flanker. The overflight purportedly surprised the ship, which failed to launch her alert aircraft in time to intercept the inbound Russians, due to communications errors. Additional flyovers occurred on 12 October and 9 November 2000, without the ship being surprised.

23 Oct 2000: A fire generated by smoldering oil in the ventilation system occurred in No. 2 Air Conditioning Room, emitting dangerous white smoke into the compartment before the crew extinguished it.

6–17 Nov 2000: The carrier participated in AnnualEx, comprising multi-threat scenarios.

13 Nov 2000: During Operation Keen Sword, a training evolution, Kitty Hawk participated in a SAR with the Japanese for the pilots of two USAF F-16s out of Misawa AB that collided over the Sea of Japan, at about 0900. While the pilot of the F-16CJ Wild Weasel, COL Michael J. Lepper, Commander, 35th Operations Group, was rescued by a Japanese UH-60J from Chitose AB, Hokkaido, the other pilot, flying an F-16C, CAPT Warren Sneed, 14th Fighter Squadron, was not recovered.

2 Mar–11 Jun 2001: Kitty Hawk operated in the Philippine Sea, and off Okinawa, Thailand, Guam, and Australia.

22 Mar 2001: Kitty Hawk became the first carrier to moor at the deep-draft vessel pier, Changi Naval Base, Singapore, at 1600. On board was ADM Vern Clark, CNO.

10–22 May 2001: The ship participated in Tandem Thrust ’01, a combined exercise with the Australians and Canadians, involving over 27,000 Allied people, principally along the Queensland coast of Australia, and at that nation’s Shoalwater Bay Training Area. During a visit to Wooloomooloo Bay, Sydney, Kitty Hawk represented the U.S. during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand and the United States) Treaty.

11 Sep 2001: Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S. Kitty Hawk was in the midst of an extensive maintenance period. Crewmembers remained on board overnight for the first three days following the brutal assaults, allowed only short visits ashore for purchases at the exchange or to secure residences. “Force protection,” one observer wrote, “instantly became a buzz phrase around the ship.” RADM Robert F. Willard, Deputy and Chief of Staff, CINCPAC, also Battle Watch Commander, Kitty Hawk carrier battle group, oversaw the rapid completion of the overhaul and hastened the ship’s readiness for wartime deployment.

14–16 Sep 2001: On the first weekend after 9/11, crewmembers could only go ashore with the clear understanding that they “do not stray from their residences.”

21–29 Sep 2001: Kitty Hawk conducted sea trials and exercises in the Philippine Sea, in particular utilizing Iwo Jima for practice bombing.

27 Sep 2001: Kitty Hawk received notification of Operation River City, including her deployment to the northern Arabian Sea, to serve as an afloat forward staging base for special operations forces (SOF) during Operation Enduring Freedom, America’s retaliation against al Qaeda. One of the nicknames the crew applied to her during River City was the “stealth carrier.” To provide for embarked SOF, Kitty Hawk was reconfigured to deploy with less then 20 aircraft: Eight F/A-18Cs, three S-3Bs, two C-2As, and two SH-60Bs.

7 Oct 2001: While transiting the Strait of Malacca inbound to the Indian Ocean, Kitty Hawk and her escorts, guided missile destroyer Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and guided missile frigate Gary (FFG-51), rescued five people from a sinking 40-foot Indonesian fishing vessel that suffered a collision with an unidentified merchantman.

12–15 Oct 2001: The ship on-loaded TF Sword, a composite Army SOF command including approximately 600 soldiers, and 20 UH-60L Black Hawks and Boeing MH-47E Chinooks, at Masirah, having steamed over 6,000 miles in 12 days. Operational security concerns regarding TF Sword’s operations forced the crew to maintain the “five-mile bubble,” maintaining station that distance from inquisitive ships. Kitty Hawk then moved to her station in the northern Arabian Sea to form TG-50.3.

19–20 Oct 2001: Operating primarily from Kitty Hawk, TF Sword raided the compound of Mullah Omar, a key Taliban leader, near Kandahar, and an airstrip near Bibi Tera, approximately 80 miles southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

23 Oct 2001: GEN Tommy Franks, USA, Commander, Central Command, visited the ship. “The United States of America owes you a debt,” he told the crew. “You stand tall.”

1 Nov 2001: The ship introduced “Freedom Email,” enabling sailors to write home after two designated sailors screened their messages for operational security considerations.

7 Nov 2001: MMFA Bryant L. Davis, Chicago, Ill., fell overboard, but despite an intensive 48 hour SAR aided by Curtis Wilbur, was not recovered. His shipmates honored MMFA Davis in a ceremony on the 11th.

29 Nov 2001: EMFN Michael J. Jakes, Jr., Brooklyn, N.Y., sustained fatal head injuries in a fall from his rack. He eventually died on 4 December after having been evacuated to the Naval Hospital, NSA Bahrain. EMFN Jakes was memorialized in a service on board, on 9 December.

6–7 Dec 2001: The ship disembarked the SOF to Masirah, coming about for Japan. During this deployment, CVW-5 flew over 600 missions, including more than 100 combat sorties, against al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban. CAPT Patrick Driscoll, Deputy Commander, CVW-5, later received the Bronze Star for his efforts in integrating the wing into the ship’s operations, ensuring Kitty Hawk’s role as an afloat forward staging base. Relaxed operational security permitted sailors to again utilize normal email and “Sailor phones.”

17 Dec 2001: Kitty Hawk transited the Strait of Malacca outbound from the Indian Ocean.

20 Dec 2001: Kitty Hawk transited the Taiwan Strait northbound.

23 Dec 2001: The ship returned to Yokosuka, ending her 83-day Operation Enduring Freedom deployment.

15 Apr–5 Jun 2002: Kitty Hawk conducted training in the Western Pacific.

3 Sep 2002: RADM Willard, who had lost confidence in CAPT Thomas A. Hejl’s ability to lead his crew and carry out essential missions and taskings, relieved Hejl of his command, later reflecting that it had been “one of the most unpleasant tasks I can imagine.”

23 Jan– 2003: Kitty Hawk operated off the Korean Peninsula in response to rising tensions generated by North Korean military developments, primarily the latter’s nuclear weapons program. The move was seen as a deterrent to forestall North Korean’s taking advantage of the deployment of substantial U.S. forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom to attack neighboring South Korea.

8 Feb 2003: As of noon (EST), 398,505 aircraft had launched from Kitty Hawk’s four catapults, as Catapult No. 1 logged its 150,000th.

Feb–19 Mar 2003: Kitty Hawk participated in Operation Southern Watch in the Arabian Gulf, aircrew enforcing the No-Fly Zone over southern Iraq, as well as patrolling for smugglers. Iraqi AAA and SAMs regularly fired at the aircrew, though no aircraft were lost.

26 Feb 2003: Upon assuming command, CAPT Thomas A. Parker announced a new nickname for the ship: “Fightin’, Bitin’, Howlin’, Growlin’ Battle Cat.” As Parker later elaborated: “This Battle Cat business is corny. It’s calculated. My intentions are entirely transparent and fool no one. But the use of the name ‘Battle Cat’ has been enthusiastically embraced by the crew.”

19 Mar–18 Apr 2003: Operation Iraqi Freedom Phase I resulted in the largest deployment of combatant Naval Aviation forces since Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Iraq’s failure to comply with UN resolutions led Congress to authorize, in October 2002, the President to use the military to enforce Iraqi compliance with these decisions. Saddam Hussein’s regime continued to disregard warnings to eliminate its offensive arsenal, and on 17 March 2003, the President issued an ultimatum demanding that Hussein and his sons leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so precipitated Operation Iraqi Freedom. Five carrier strike groups (during 2003, CNO directed that the terms carrier battle group and amphibious ready group be replaced respectively with carrier strike group and expeditionary strike group, to reflect the enhanced striking power of more widely distributed forces designed to be more responsive), three amphibious ready groups, and two amphibious task forces, totaling more than 200 coalition ships, deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some 780 Navy and Marine Corps aircraft flew 13,893 sorties. Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), Constellation and Kitty Hawk carrier strike groups steamed in the Arabian Gulf, while Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) operated in the Med. During the first night, eight Hornets, VFAs-192 and 195, and two Tomcats, VF-154, conducted “response option strikes” against an Iraqi intelligence facility and mobile SAMs in western Iraq. CVW-5 launched 42 strike sorties in several “cycles,” dropping 37 bombs against Iraqi military targets. Following the initial strikes, CAPT Parker told his crew: “We’ve been prowling around the Persian Gulf, looking for trouble. Beginning yesterday, we found some.” In the following days, Grumman EA-6B Prowlers from VAQ-136 flew more than 500 hours and 105 combat missions, enabling USAF B-52Hs to pound the enemy without fear of SAMs, and also supported the insertion of SOF into the Al Faw Peninsula, crucial to achieving control of the southern Iraqi oil fields.

20 Mar 2003: Aircrew flew 26 sorties, dropping 37 laser-guided bombs against Iraqi military targets. About half of the missions supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, the other half flying in Operation Southern Watch.

21 Mar 2003: A mixed strike of six Hornets and Tomcats blasted Iraqi positions, returning to the ship just before sunset.

22 Mar 2003: Pilots pummeled Iraqi troops dug in around Al Basrah. “You could see the horizon was red from at least 100 miles away,” noted LT Marcus Dodd, a Prowler pilot. Elsewhere in that theater, LT Thomas M. Adams, VAW-115, of La Mesa, Calif., on an exchange from Kitty Hawk with the Fleet Air Arm’s A Flight No. 849 Squadron, perished in a collision between two British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Sikorsky AEW MK 7 Sea Kings, from aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (RO-7). Seven British crewmembers also died, the tragedy occurring over the Arabian Gulf at 0430.

24–25 Mar 2003: Severe sandstorms swept across central and southern Iraq, blanketing battlefields in impenetrable clouds of debris, forcing pilots to rely primarily on satellite-guided ordnance. Nonetheless, 15 aircraft dropped 25 precision-guided 1,000-pound bombs and one 2,000-pounder on Iraqi tanks, artillery, and command and control centers of the crack Medina Republican Guard armored division as the Iraqis counterattacked U.S. soldiers and marines, ranging from the outskirts of Baghdad to up to 60 miles south of the capital, on the 24th. The next day, aircrew flew 76 sorties, including 30 close air support, 21 Hornets dropping 30 1,000-pound GPS guided bombs and four AGM-154C joint standoff weapons (JSOWs). Hornets pounded Iraqi SAMs deployed around the Medina division, launching four precision-guided 1,000-pound bombs and two JSOWs. The Iraqis fought back desperately. “There has been some missile firings in our direction, probably in the range of several hundred,” noted CAPT Patrick Driscoll, CAG, CVW-5, “Most of that is barrage fire, where they put up a curtain of triple-A or missiles, hoping a percentage will hit aircraft as they fly through.”

26 Mar 2003: Sandstorms blowing out to sea reached Kitty Hawk, reducing visibility from over a mile to just under 200 yards in less than an hour, and buffeting the ship with 42 mph winds. Setting the “low visibility watch” shortly after 1230, Kitty Hawk shut down flight operations for four hours during scheduled launch cycles, canceling six tactical aircraft launches and rescheduling two others. Two Hornets launching just prior to the storm’s arrival over the carrier fired three JSOWs at Iraqi radar sites, but then diverted ashore to Kuwait. Four more Hornets struck an Iraqi convoy engaging soldiers of the U.S. Army’s V Corps with four GPS guided 1,000-pound bombs, and four others bombed an Iraqi barracks with eight GPS guided 1,000-pound bombs.

28–29 Mar 2003: Aircrew dropped 46 bombs; six 2,000-pound “bunker-buster” target penetrators, eight JSOWs, 26 laser-guided bombs and six 500-pound unguided; against an Iraqi Baath Party HQ, SAM canisters, and a military compound, all between Karbala and Baghdad.

1–2 Apr 2003: 27 Hornets and 12 Tomcats flew 69 “dedicated strike missions” against Iraqi troops in Basrah and in and near Baghdad, dropping nearly 100,000 pounds of ordnance.

1 Apr 2003: Black Knight 104, an F-14A (BuNo 158620), LCDR Scotty “Gordo” McDonald, and LT Chad “Vinny” Vincelette, VF-154, crashed over the “pitch-black” central Iraqi desert, near Karbala, about 50 miles south of Baghdad. As the pair was completing a bombing run and seeking a tanker to refuel prior to returning to the carrier, the Tomcat experienced a mechanical failure. One engine gave out, followed by a failure in the fuel transfer system that allowed the good engine to consume all of Black Knight 104’s fuel. Both men ejected, being rescued by a USAF CSAR helo at approximately 0250, and flown to Ahmed Al Jaber AB, Kuwait.

2 Apr 2003: While flying a night close air support mission over Karbala, LT Nathan D. “O.J.” White, Abilene, Texas, VFA-195, was killed when his F/A-18C was shot down by one of two Army PAC-2 Phased Array Tracking Intercept of Target (Patriot) missiles mistakenly fired at him and his wingman.

3–4 Apr 2003: Aircrew struck Iraqi fighters, vehicles, artillery, bunkers, and a probable SAM site defending Saddam International Airport, Baghdad, and a nearby military complex, with 69 bombs.

4–5 Apr 2003: EA-6Bs, VAQ-136, fired the first of six AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs) they would launch during the campaign, hitting Iraqi SAM and AAA sites in support of a pair of Hornet missions on each night.
23 Apr 2003: Kitty Hawk came about from operations in the Arabian Gulf. During both Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom in this deployment, her aircrew flew 5,375 sorties and 11,800 flight hours, dropping nearly 900,000 pounds of ordnance on military targets.

19 May–17 Oct 2003: The ship underwent a Drydock Ships Restricted Availability (DSRA), Drydock No. 6, Yokosuka, her only scheduled overhaul while being forward deployed and prior to decommissioning. The crew moved ashore, 12 July–3 October.

13–23 Oct 2003: Kitty Hawk completed sea trials.

19 Feb 2004: Aircraft No. 115, CAPT Joey Aucoin, CO, CVW-5, and LCDR Stephen Higurea, VFA-102, completed the first F/A-18F Super Hornet landing on board Kitty Hawk, at 1229.

25 Feb 2004: AN Frank Fuentesriccardi and AN Antwan Booker proved instrumental in the rescue of AM2 John A. Caldwell, who fell overboard, 0200–0300.

26 Feb 2004: Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England visited the ship.

Mar–Apr 2004: The ship completed TSTAs I and II.

14 Mar 2004: The ship’s SAR SH-60B, PO1 Marc Ennis, and PO2 Aaron J. Beugler, rescued SN Michael C. Moyer after he fell overboard.

7 May–2 Oct 2004: VFA-27 transitioned from 13 F/A-18Cs to 13 F/A-18Es. This was the first squadron to so transition while deployed outside the U.S., transferring 11 Hornets to VFA-192. VFA-27 detached to NAS Lemoore, Calif., returning to NAF Atsugi and later to Kitty Hawk, a grueling trans-Pacific flight.

19 Jul–7 Sep 2004: Summer Pulse 04, an exercise designed to test the Fleet Response Plan (FRP) of the Navy’s Sea Power 21 strategy, took place. Under the “six-plus-two” concept of FRP, the Navy projected power by providing six carrier strike groups in less than 30 days for contingency operations across the globe, with two more groups to follow within three months to reinforce or rotate with them, or to respond to other crises. From June–August 2004, the Enterprise, George Washington (CVN-73), Harry S. Truman, John C. Stennis (CVN-74), Kitty Hawk, Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and John F. Kennedy CSGs deployed near-simultaneously in five theaters. Kitty Hawk also led a combined force including John C. Stennis in Joint Air and Sea Exercise 04.

21 Aug 2004: While visiting NS Apra, the ship initiated an emergency recall of the crew and sortied to avoid Super Typhoon Chaba (19W), approaching the Marianas Islands.

24 Aug 2004: The Oceanographer/Navigator of the Navy, RADM Steven J. Tomaszeski, Director, Space Information Warfare, Command and Control Division, and the ship’s former skipper, flew out to her to consult with sailors tracking Super Typhoon Chaba.

16 Sep 2004–15 Jan 2005: Kitty Hawk completed an SRA at Yokosuka.
1 Nov 2004: AT1 Jose L. Gonzales collapsed at his work center. He was rushed to Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at 2223.

29 Jan 2005: An F/A-18F Super Hornet, LT(JG) Jon Vanbragt, and LCDR Markus Gudmundsson, VFA-102, crashed while landing, at approximately 1830, as the ship steamed about 100 miles southeast of Yokosuka. Both crewmembers were recovered by a SAR helo, AW2s Jerard Cook and Bennie Romiti, HS-14, though six sailors sustained injuries, none life threatening. “We saw the tail of the jet floating nearby, and it looked like the ship was about to run us over,” LT(JG) Vanbragt later recalled the harrowing experience, “But then we saw the rescue team coming, and we knew we would be all right.”

10 Feb–28 Mar 2005: The ship cruised in the Western Pacific, including the Sea of Japan and the East and South China Seas.
12 Jun 2005: The ship participated in Talisman Saber ’05, a joint U.S.-Australian exercise in Australian waters.

7–13 Aug 2005: Together with amphibious assault ship Boxer (LHD-4), Destroyer Squadron 15, the 1st Marine Air Wing (the latter including McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier IIs) and the USAF, Kitty Hawk participated in Joint Air and Sea Exercise 2005 off Okinawa and Guam. The exercise tested the ship’s interoperability with other services.

23 Sep 2005–31 Jan 2006: The ship completed an SRA at Ship Repair Facility (SRF), Yokosuka.

2 Dec 2005: The Navy announced that George Washington would relieve Kitty Hawk as the “forward deployed carrier” to Japan in 2008. CVW-5, however, would remain forward deployed.