USS Enterprise, the Top Gun aircraft carrier, embarks on its final voyage

After 50 years, the longest serving aircraft carrier in US Navy, famed as the aircraft carrier used in the 1986 film Top Gun, will embark Sunday on its final voyage, according to The Associated Press.

The USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was deployed in several wars, played an important role in the Cuban missile crisis and served as a spotter ship during John Glenn’s 1962 orbit of the Earth.

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"To serve on this ship, certainly in this capacity, you certainly have to be a student of the ship's history," Rear Adm. Walter Carter, commander of the Enterprise strike group, was quoted as saying. "Fifty years of service, in our nation's history, we've never had a warship in service that long."

The Big E, as it’s known, gets a long cameo appearance at the beginning and the end of this YouTube clip of the final dog fight scene in Top Gun:

At 342 meters or 1,123 ft, the USS Enterprise is the longest naval vessel in the world, according to Wikipedia. The only other US Navy ship to be commissioned longer is the USS Constitution (which has a wooden hull and three masts). The Enterprise has a maximum capacity of 90 planes but usually carries 70.

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The ship was originally intended to be in service for 25 years but was overhauled in 1979. After so many years, the maintenance problems it encounters have come to include “unknown unknowns,” the AP said, citing Capt William Hamilton, the ship’s commanding officer.

It has eight nuclear reactors, six more to maintain than any other US carrier, and frequently suffers breakdowns in critical air conditioning units and in the elevators that lift aircraft from the hangar bay to the flight deck, which it self sometimes also breaks down, the AP said.

"It's kind of like when you get older and you know it's harder to get out of the bed in the morning. It takes you a couple hours to kind of really get up and then you're fine. Well, it's the same sort of thing here with Enterprise," Hamilton was quoted as saying.

After the final voyage, a deactivation ceremony in Norfolk Virginia, to which President Barack Obama has been invited, is scheduled for Dec 1. In the summer of 2013, the ship is to be stripped of its nuclear fuel until 2015 before it is scrapped, according to the AP.

According to the Florida Times Union, the USS John L Hall, a frigate, was decommissioned yesterday.

The USS Boone, also a frigate, was decommissioned on Thursday, also at Florida’s Mayport naval station, according to WJXT television news.

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