Here’s why an aircraft carrier was in the Long Beach harbor today

Empty cruise ships have been a common sight at anchor near the Port of Long Beach throughout the pandemic, but it was another type of vast vessel that caught attention for floating in the harbor today.

The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk made a short stop in the waters off Long Beach during a 16,000-mile journey, under tow, from Washington state, around South America, to its ultimate fate of scrapping at a shipbreaking yard in Brownsville, Texas.

After a journey expected to last at least 129 days, the ship will be delivered to International Shipbreaking Limited, which purchased the Kitty Hawk and another decommissioned carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, for 1 cent each, according to an Oct. 3 report from USA Today.

Originally commissioned in 1961, the carrier served for over 48 years before being decommissioned in 2009.

Entering service during the Vietnam War, the ship participated heavily in the conflict. Between 1965 and 1972, aircraft based on the Kitty Hawk flew over 41,000 sorties from the carrier.

In the decades following the Vietnam War, the Kitty Hawk deployed multiple times around the world. In 1987, the ship returned to a Philadelphia drydock, where it underwent an $832 million life-extension overhaul that kept it in service an additional two decades.

In 1998, the ship relocated to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, home of the 7th Fleet, where it remained for the next decade before decommissioning in May 2009.

As the Kitty Hawk is too wide to transit the Panama Canal, the ship will be towed to the Gulf Coast of Texas by way of the Straits of Magellan.

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