The United States aircraft carrier Constellation, which spent most of its nearly 42 years of service operating out of San Diego Bay is being towed along the South American Atlantic coast on its way to be scrapped in Texas. This week it was sighted in the extreme south of Chile, Punta Arenas as it crossed to the Atlantic.
The US Navy said the decommissioned flattop has been handed over to International Shipbreaking, Ltd. (ISL), which is employing a single ocean-going tugboat to pull Connie almost 17,000 miles, from Bremerton, Washington, on the Pacific to its yard in Brownsville, Texas. The 1,088-foot carrier has to be towed around the tip of South America because it is too big to slip through the Panama Canal.
The trip is expected will take about five months to complete and is among the largest towing efforts ever undertaken with an American warship.
The US Navy is in the process of releasing some of its largest decommissioned ships for scrap to save on the cost of maintaining the vessels. Constellation was decommissioned at North Island in 2003 and towed to Bremerton, where it has been docked at a site for inactive ships. Two other decommissioned carriers, Kitty Hawk and Ranger, are also expected to be scrapped.
Earlier this year, a different company towed the decommissioned carrier Forrestal from Philadelphia to Brownsville for scrapping. Forrestal is about 98 feet shorter than Constellation.
Robert Berry, carrier program manager at ISL said it will take about two years to dismantle Constellation, a project that will generate about 400 jobs in Brownsville. The scrap metal is used for such things as building new cars. ISL is paying an undisclosed price to move Constellation in return for the right to sell scrap from the ship.
Constellation went on 21 deployments throughout the world, but is best known for its service in the Vietnam War.
Home-ported in San Diego for four decades, perhaps no ship has contributed more to the San Diego economy and to the civilian-military community fabric more than the USS Constellation, said Scott McGaugh, marketing director of the USS Midway Museum.
It came to embody the entire Vietnam Conflict, much of the Cold War, and the earliest days of the Global War on Terrorism, always returning to San Diego where families waited to welcome their sailors and officers home.
The USS Constellation (CV-64) was a Kitty Hawk class super-carrier and one of the fastest of the US Navy. She was nicknamed Connie by her crew and officially as America's Flagship. She was built at the New York Navy Yard, launched in October 1960 and delivered to the navy a year later, at a cost of 264 million dollars of the time.
Constellation has a displacement of 61.981 tons light, and 82.548 tons full load with a length of 332 meters, 86 meters beam and 12 meters draft. With eight boilers, four steam turbine engines she totaled 280.00 shp and reach a speed of 34 knots (62 km/p/h). She carried up to 72 aircraft.