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USS America: Sinking A Supercarrier

Sinking an Aircraft Carrier

The USS America (CV-66) super carrier was originally intended to be scrapped, like most other US aircraft carriers. But some innovative US Navy officers found a more creative and productive end for this massive ship.

Although aircraft carriers have been sunk in battle before, especially during WWII, a super-carrier the size of modern US Navy aircraft carriers has never reached that end. After decades of successful aircraft carrier operations, though, this started to become a bit of a weak spot.

No one knew exactly, with any great degree of certainty, how the massive super-carriers would hold up to strikes by modern — and very capable — anti-ship weapons in a combat scenario.

The problem of studying this weakness was eventually solved in 1996 proposal for one final heroic battle for the USS America. The Navy decided to intentionally hit the super carrier, not only to test their ability to strike ships, but also to see how long a super-carrier type of construction would last against modern weapons.

The ship held on valiantly for more than four weeks of bombardment

Carrier SINKEX: Reef or Madness?

After being prepared for the SINKEX operation, the ex-USS America was towed far away from the Virginia coast line, in a Naval exercise range. Shortly after arriving to its predetermined location, the US Navy onslaught began. Battered by missiles, bombs, and torpedoes, the ship held on valiantly for more than four weeks of bombardment.

A poster hanging in the Pentagon. The only unclassified recording of the USS America’s sinking.

Amazingly the US Navy resorted to old fashioned tactics to get the ship to sink, scuttling the ex-America with strategically placed explosive charges from a demolitions team. On May 14, 2005, the USS America’s flight deck finally started to slip below the ocean’s surface.

What was the runway for so many thousands of flights turned into a wing, guiding the ship down through the depths of the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.

The Navy’s official water depth in the region of the America’s sinking is 2,810 fathoms, or 16,860 feet. That’s about 4,200 ft deeper than the spot at which the Titanic sits on the North Atlantic Ocean sea floor.

Watch More Navy SINKEX Videos

Did the Navy make the right decision?

The USS America served in the US Navy for decades, with tens of thousands of sailors bringing her to life over the years. Although the decision to sink the USS America allowed the navy to study its carrier fleet in a way no other simulation could, some critics of the move say it dishonors the service of the US Navy sailors who sailed this ship.

What do you think? Did the knowledge gained during this unique ship sinking exercise outweigh the somewhat grotesque end for the USS America? Share your thoughts in the comments below.