U.S. Navy to scrap historic aircraft carrier

The U.S. Navy says it has awarded the contract to scrap the decommissioned ‘Ranger’ (CV 61) to International Shipbreaking, Ltd, marking the end of the road for the aircraft carrier with a long history of service dating back to 1957.

Under the procurement contract, the U.S. Navy will pay International Shipbreaking $0.01 for the towing and dismantling of the ship, the lowest price the Navy could possibly have paid the contractor. The $0.01 is considered the estimated proceeds from the sale of the scrap metal to be generated from dismantling.

The ship will be towed from the Navy’s inactive ships maintenance facility in Bremerton, Washington, to International Shipbreaking, Ltd.’s ship dismantling facility in Brownsville, Texas, for complete dismantling and recycling. The ship is expected to depart Bremerton via tow in January or February, and arrive in Brownsville after four to five months. The ship is too large for passage through the Panama Canal and must be towed around South America.

Ranger was the third Forrestal-class aircraft carrier to be built. The ship was laid down Aug. 2, 1954, by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia, and commissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Aug. 10, 1957. Ranger was the only ship of the Forrestal class to spend its entire career in the Pacific. The ship made a total of 22 Western Pacific deployments, was an active participant in the Vietnam War, and was the only West Coast-based carrier to deploy in support of Operation Desert Storm.

The Forrestal-class, which included four ships in total, are notable because they were considered the Navy’s first “supercarriers” due to their high tonnage, and also they were the first U.S. Navy ships to be built with an angled flight deck.

Ranger was decommissioned July 10, 1993, after more than 35 years of service. It served as a retention asset for potential future reactivation until stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, March 8, 2004, and redesigned for donation. After eight years on donation hold, the USS Ranger Foundation was unable to raise the necessary funds to convert the ship into a museum or to overcome the physical obstacles of transporting her up the Columbia River to Fairview, Oregon. As a result, Ranger was removed from the list of ships available for dismantling and designated for dismantling.

The Navy says that while there are many veterans with strong desires that the Navy not scrap the ship they served on, there were no states, municipalities or nonprofit organizations with a viable plan seeking to save the ship. The Navy cannot donate a vessel unless the application fully meets the Navy’s minimum requirements for donation, and cannot retain inactive ships indefinitely. 

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