She was commissioned in 1982 and carries F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as well as surveillance and other aircraft. Carl Vinson can carry 85 planes and 5,500 personnel.
A member of the United States House of Representatives for fifty years, Carl Vinson was, for twenty-nine years, the Chairman of the House Naval Affairs and Armed Services Committee.
Carl Vinson participated in RIMPAC '84 before departing 14 October 1984 for overseas deployment in the Western Pacific. From January until April 1985, Carl Vinson was in the Indian Ocean for 107 consecutive days. The WESTPAC deployment included Sea of Japan operations and an exceptionally difficult sea period while persecuting a Soviet CHARLIE I submarine in the Indian Ocean.
That same year, aircrew and F-14As from Carl Vinson participated in the filming of Top Gun.
In May and June 1986 the ship was involved in several exercises, including a RIMPAC '86 exercise. On 12 August 1986 the ship departed for a second western Pacific deployment, and in the process became the first aircraft carrier to operate in the Bering Sea.
On 18 September 1989 the carrier departed Alameda to participate in PACEX '89, the largest peacetime naval exercise since the Second World War. During the exercise Carl Vinson operated in the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands, eventually leading a three carrier battle group operation in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Carl Vinson had a port call in Pusan, South Korea and then returned to its homeport of Alameda shortly after the devastating earthquake.
In September 1990, Carl Vinson entered the yards at Bremerton, Washington for a 28-month complex overhaul (COH).
On 17 February 1994 the carrier departed for the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. On 5 August 1994 Carl Vinson hosted the change of command ceremonies for the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. The carrier returned to Alameda on 17 August 1994.
In 1995, a documentary entitled "Carrier: Fortress at Sea" was aired on the Discovery Channel, which chronicled the carrier's six month-long voyage to and from the Persian Gulf.
From 26 August until 3 September 1995, Vinson participated in Exercise Ke Koa, as well as ceremonies to commemorate the end of World War II in the Pacific. During these ceremonies, President Bill Clinton visited the ship in Hawaii. As part of the commemoration ceremonies, Vinson launched 12 WWII era planes.
The ship departed for its seventh deployment 14 May 1996, heading for the Persian Gulf in support for Operation Southern Watch and Operation Desert Strike. The ship also participated in Exercise Rugged Nautilus before returning to Alameda on 14 November 1996.
With the closing of Naval Air Station Alameda, the ship was transferred to Bremerton, Washington, in late 1996 or early 1997. Carl Vinson arrived at her new homeport 17 January 1997, where she played host to the last carrier launch and recovery operations for the A-6E Intruder.
In 1998 the ship participated in RIMPAC '98 before departing for the Persian Gulf, launching airstrikes on 19 December 1998 in support of Operation Desert Fox and Operation Southern Watch. These strikes continued into March 1999. In July 1999, Carl Vinson was drydocked in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for 11 months as the Navy spent more than $230 million dollars to upgrade the ship. Post refit shakedowns continued into 2000.
The U.S.S. Carl Vinson also starred in the 2000 film Behind Enemy Lines with Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman where Navy LT. Chris Burnett is a downed Naval aviator trapped behind enemy lines in Bosnia. The young officer must evade capture long enough to be rescued by the U.S. Marines.
In January 2003 she was set for a one month work up for Flight Deck Quals. Due to the start of the Operation Iraqi Freedom the ship was extended at sea indefinitely. After 9 months (Sept 2003) USS Carl Vinson finally returned home. From January 2003 until September 2003, she made port calls in Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong (China), and Singapore.
In January 2005, the USS Carl Vinson departed Bremerton, Washington for the last time. From January to August 2005 she completed a World Cruise which included several months in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Highlights of the cruise included port calls to Singapore, Guam, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Rhodes, Greece and Lisbon, Portugal. Her 2005 World Cruise concluded with a homeport change to Norfolk, Virginia for a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), which includes servicing the nuclear reactors. She is scheduled to return to sea duty in 2009.
Per the COMPACFLT decision of March 2007, USS Carl Vinson will transition back to the Pacific Ocean and be based at NAS North Island (San Diego), joining the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), by early 2010.
The seal of USS Carl Vinson shows an eagle, wings spread and talons extended, carrying a banner in its beak. The eagle is emblematic of the nation and the ship's motto, and also represents the power that resides in the ship's aircraft. The eagle flies in the form of a stylized letter "V," the initial of the ship's namesake, Congressman Carl Vinson. The "V" also represents the ships hull when viewed bow-on. Inscribed on the banner the eagle carries is the Latin Phrase "Vis Per Mare" which means "Strength from the Sea."