CVN-71 USS Theodore Roosevelt

On Wednesday March 25th 2015 members of were amongst a number of invitees to board the United States Navy aircraft carrier CVN-71 USS Theodore Roosevelt, TR or The Big Stick as it is known to its crew members in the US Navy. TR was on a visit to Portsmouth, UK, as the first port of call on her round the world deployment.

Until now, CVN-71 has been stationed at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, but at the end of this world wide deployment she will dock at her new home of Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California.

TR was anchored in Stokes Bay, which is off Gosport, Hampshire as she is just too big to fit into Portsmouth Harbour. Her displacement is 104,600 tons, has an overall length of 1,092 feet (332.8. m) and an overall width of 252 feet (76.8m). Her draft under normal navigational conditions is 37 feet (11.3m) and has a maximum limit of 41 feet (12.5 m).

CVN 71 [C = aircraft carrier V = fixed wing and N = Nuclear], as its initials imply, is a nuclear powered ship. The powerful turbines are two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors which provide steam to 4 steam turbines driving four shafts (propellers) delivering 260,00 shp (194MW). This gives CVN 71 a top speed of 30+ knots (56+ km/h or 35+ mph)

At the time of the visit there would have been a crew compliment of approximately 3,200 and additional 2,480 for the Air Wing(s). TR’s endurance is limited only by supplies of food and other necessary items to sustain the crew and aircraft embarked. It is said that it could last at sea for up to 25 years!

Embarked squadrons on CVN-71 are VFA-11 ‘Red Rippers’ with Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, with similarly equipped VFA-211’Fighting Checkmates’.VFA-136 ‘Knighthawks’ with the single seat F/A-18E Super Hornet complete the US Navy Fighter Attack squadrons and are supplemented by VMFA-251’Thunderbolts’ of the United States Marine Corps with F/A-18C ‘Legacy’ Hornets. The other three units are the one E/A-18G Growler VAQ-137 ‘Rooks’, E-2D Hawkeye Squadron VAW-125 ‘Tigertails’ and HS-11’Dragon Slayers’ completed the scene with a mix of MH-60R, HH-60H and SH-60F Seahawk helicopters.

The visitors were split up into four groups of approximately ten people per group. They were shown around the stern section of the ship starting with the below deck hangar space which had a number of F/A-18 Hornets, H-60 Seahawk helicopters and a lone E-2D. Also below deck was 167038, a MH-60R of HSM-46 “Grandmasters” off the USS Winston S. Churchill which was moored along side in Portsmouth Harbour.

Two CAG (Carrier Air Group) birds were seen below deck, these smartly turned out aircraft being 166628, AB-100, an F/A-18F of VFA-11 ‘Red Rippers’ and 166797, AB- 200 of VFA-211 ‘Fighting Checkmates’, also an F/A-18F.

The group were then escorted up to an observation point abeam the bridge of the ship from where they were able to photograph the aircraft lining the stern, mid-point and bow of the ship. In total there were 42 Hornets, 4 E-2D’s, and 4 Seahawk helicopters on the flight deck area.

The group were then re-escorted down the labyrinth of stairways (almost vertical) and narrow corridors to the flight deck where they were left to their own devices with a 30 minute time limit to muster back at the tower.

Thirty minutes later some very satisfied visitors reassembled in the below deck hangar and thanked their hosts for a very pleasant and interesting tour of the ship. I have no doubt that those on the visit took away more than a few hundred photos of the ship, planes and many lasting memories of their visit.

The combined groups return to the mainland was on a much smaller vessel, being one of the Gosport to Portsmouth ferries that had been chartered by the USN / MoD to transport personnel to from CVN 71.

For those who are interested, a log of the aircraft seen during this visit can be downloaded from here.