The USS Constellation (CV-64) is a Kitty-Hawk-class aircraft carrier that served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 until 2003. Constellation was named to commemorate the admission of Alaska and Hawaii into the union. She is currently laid up at the Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility at the Puget Sound Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington.
Constellation's keel was laid at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York in September 1956. The massive vessel required five years to complete, and was not commissioned until the end of October 1961.
Constellation was an upgrade from the previous Forrestal-class design. Considered a "supercarrier," Constellation measures well over 1,000 feet in length with a beam of over 280 feet. She was powered by four Westinghouse steam turbines that were fed by a total of eight boilers, built by Foster-Wheeler, now a Swiss-based conglomerate with its main offices in New Jersey. With her full complement of 90 aircraft, Constellation displaced over 81,000 tons.
Repairs and Upgrades
Constellation underwent her first maintenance period in San Diego following a Vietnam deployment. Repairs and upgrades continued from February 1965 through most of that year.
Her second yard overhaul began in mid-1970 at San Diego and lasted for nine months. She returned to service in the spring of 1971.
From February 1974 until April 1976, the "Connie" underwent an extensive overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Upgrades to her launching and storage facilities allowed her to operate new jet aircraft. However, more serious problems were later discovered as the vessel was undergoing final preparations for deployment in the summer of 1976, which required additional drydock work at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard that fall.
In January 1983, Constellation returned to the Puget Sound facility for another overhaul and upgrades to her missile and other weapons systems. The work continued until February of the following year.
In July 1990, Constellation entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for a three-year Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) overhaul. Designed to extend her useful service life, the overhaul – which cost twice as much as the vessel's original construction did – involved a complete replacement of her main turbines.
Constellation was formerly retired at the San Diego Naval Base in August of 2003, and was towed to Bremerton where she awaits final disposal. As of this writing, she is scheduled to be scrapped.
Following her shakedown trials in the Caribbean, Constellation was deployed to Vietnam five times between 1963 and 1970. An extended tour of duty of the Indochinese coast took place in 1972. During the 1980s, Constellation spent most of her time in the Pacific, with at least one deployment to the Indian Ocean.
In the 1990s, Constellation took part in RIMPAC exercises, patrolled the Sea of Japan when North Korea was attempting to develop nuclear weapons, and spent time flying sorties in enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq during Operation Southern Watch. She returned to Korean waters when skirmishes broke out between North and South Korean vessels in 1999.
When the second Gulf War commenced in March of 2003, Constellation was stationed in the Persian Gulf, operating as a "night carrier." She returned to San Diego later that summer, where she was finally decommissioned.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Constellation (CV-64)
During the last stages of her construction in December of 1960, a forklift operator dropped his cargo, knocking over a steel plate on the hangar deck. This in turn damaged a tank full of diesel fuel, which was apparently ignited by a blowtorch. The resulting fire did $75 million in damage.
In June 1980, Constellation collided with a Bangladeshi merchant vessel, resulting in minor damage to both vessels.
During routine training off the southern California coast in August of 1988, a leak in one of the jet fuel storage facilities resulted in an engine room explosion. The resulting fire ultimately threatened the entire vessel. The fire was contained within 24 hours, and it was later determined that the contractor that had serviced the system was at fault.
While in the Pacific in November 2002, another engine room fire resulted from a fuel leak. Damage and injuries were minimal.
Although Constellation never took damage from enemy action, the on-board fires and collisions she did experience, particularly the fire in 1960, would have damaged asbestos-based insulation aboard the ship and in her machinery, potentially exposing crewmen and dock workers to friable asbestos fibers.
Almost every sailor aboard Constellation was probably exposed to asbestos at some point during the ship's service, particularly those who served aboard her in the 1960s and 1970s before the Navy began to take at least some asbestos abatement efforts.Sources
Department of the Navy. "Constellation." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Online.
N/A. "USS Constellation (CV 64)."