USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is a supercarrier in the United States Navy, the lead ship of its class. She is one of the largest warships in the world. She was laid down, launched and commissioned as CVAN-68, but was redesignated CVN-68 (nuclear-powered multimission aircraft carrier) on 30 June 1975 as part of the fleet realignment of that year.
The keel of Nimitz was laid down 22 June 1968 by Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, and she was commissioned 3 May 1975 by President Gerald Ford. The ship was named for Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who commanded the Pacific fleet in World War II. Captain Michael Manazir assumed command of the Nimitz on 16 March 2007.
A second Mediterranean cruise was conducted during 1977–1978 was also uneventful. The third cruise conducted in September 1979, had the carrier involved in Operation Evening Light; the attempt to rescue the US Embassy staff being held hostage in Tehran, Iran. The mission was aborted when helicopters crashed at a rendezvous point in the Iranian desert. The ship finally returned home 26 May 1980, having spent 144 days at sea.
In 1981, during a freedom-of-navigation exercise in the Gulf of Sidra near Libya two F-14As of VF-41 were attacked by Libyan aircraft which resulted in two Libyans being shotdown. This became known as the Gulf of Sidra incident.
In 1985, two Lebanese gunmen hijacked TWA Flight 847, which carried 153 passengers and crew and included Americans. In response, the carrier was deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Lebanon, where she remained until August.
The Nimitz departed Norfolk, Virginia for the Mediterranean in December 1986. After four months and numerous port visits the carrier left the Mediterranean and crossed the equator en route to Rio de Janeiro. From Rio she proceeded south around Cape Horn and into the Pacific. After a brief stop in San Diego, California to offload her air wing, she arrived at her new home port of Bremerton, Washington on 30 June 1987.
During the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, the Nimitz provided security off the coast of South Korea. In October she participated in Operation Earnest Will, operating in the North Arabian Sea. On 30 November, while the ship conducted operations in the Arabian Sea, a 20 mm cannon accidentally fired on a A-7 Corsair II during maintenance. Six other aircraft were set on fire and there were two casualties; one sailor was killed and another died in the hospital from injuries on 2 December.
On September 1997, the Nimitz began an around the world cruise that ended in Newport News where she would underwent a mid-life Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) that ended 25 June 2001.
In mid-April 2003, Nimitz relieved the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf, launching aircraft for sorties over Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She returned to San Diego on 5 November 2003 where maintenance and repair work was carried out. After these were completed, the ship and crew conducted sea trials.
The carrier departed North Island, San Diego in April 2007 on a six-month deployment in the Arabian Sea, relieving the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. She reached Chennai, India on 2 July as part of efforts to expand bilateral defense cooperation between India and the United States. Sailors of the nuclear powered aircraft carrier participated in community work in Chennai during its station there. She left Indian shores on 5 July along with the destroyer USS Pinckney towards the Persian Gulf. She returned to North Island on 30 September 2007.
On January 2008, the Nimitz deployed to the Pacific for a surge-deployment. On 9 February 2008, two Russian Tu-95 'Bear bombers overflew the carrier in the Western Pacific. Four F/A-18C Hornets were launched when the bombers were away from the U.S. ships, and intercepted the bombers south of the Nimitz. Two F/A-18s trailed one of the bombers, which buzzed the deck of the carrier twice, while the other two F/A-18s trailed another TU-95 circling about away from the carrier. The fighters then proceeded to guide the Russians away from the area. Reportedly, there was no radio communication between the American and Russian aircraft. According to the Department of Defense, one of the two aircraft was said to have flown above the Nimitz at an altitude of . This caused much controversy. On the same day, Russian aircraft entered Japanese airspace, which caused the Japanese to raise protest at the Russian ambassador in Tokyo. CVN-68/CVW-11 made a port visit to Busan, South Korea on 28 February in conjunction with military exercises Key Resolve/Foal Eagle. Again, on 5 March 2008, a Russian bomber came within three to five nautical miles (9 km) and flew above the Nimitz and its battle group. Two F/A-18 fighters intercepted the Russian aircraft and escorted it out of the area.
The Nimitz was awarded the Navy Battle "E" for battle efficiency for 2007 along with the Ney award for food service excellence and the Department of Defense Thomas Jefferson Award for best newsletter format publication "Nimitz News". In keeping with the ships motto of Teamwork, a Tradition!. She returned to her homeport of San Diego, California on 3 June 2008 after spending 10 of the last 14 months at sea. The ship is currently undergoing a Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) and will begin workups in 2009.
The Nimitz is featured in the 1986 novel Red Storm Rising by famous techno-thriller-autor Tom Clancy. In the story, the Nimitz is part of a NATO carrier battle group operating in the North Atlantic and is heavily damaged during an attack of Soviet bombers.
In 2005 PBS filmed Carrier, a 10-part miniseries that documents naval life aboard the USS Nimitz.