At the December decommissioning of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the third carrier of the new Gerald R. Ford class, CVN-80, also will be called the Enterprise. It is the right time to reflect on how appropriate it is for CVN-80 to perpetuate that legendary name, for she is the product of the evolution of the two previous Enterprises.
Tonnage Restrictions and Emerging Concepts
The first Enterprise carrier, CV-6, was designed under restrictions dictated by the 1921 Washington Naval Conference. Under the treaty terms, U.S. aircraft carriers were limited to an aggregate tonnage of 69,000; each new carrier could be no more than 27,000 tons.1 How to divide the tonnage to get the most value? Was it five small carriers at 13,800 tons, or four at 17,250 tons, or three at 23,000 tons, or two at 27,000 tons? So from the beginning of naval aviation, the Navy debated whether more, smaller carriers are better than fewer, but larger carriers.