Military Aviation

USS Nimitz records 350,000th arrested aircraft landing, the first active US Navy aircraft carrier to reach this milestone

USS Nimitz is the first active US Navy carrier in the Fleet to reach this milestone. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has the next highest total of arrested landings at 326,600.

USS Nimitz (CVN-68), the oldest-serving US commissioned aircraft carrier in the world, successfully completed its 350,000th arrested aircraft landing while sailing in the South China Sea, a milestone nearly 48 years in the making.

According to a US Navy press release, Nimitz is the first active US Navy carrier in the Fleet to reach this milestone. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) has the next highest total of arrested landings at 326,600.

Capt. Craig Sicola, commanding officer of Nimitz, and Cmdr. Luke Edwards, commanding officer of the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22 piloted the landing in an F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-22 on the morning of Apr. 22, 2023.

“I am honored and humbled to land this historic milestone for our ship. I dedicate this landing to the countless naval aviators who have flown before me, and it is a privilege to further the proud tradition of service that this distinguished aircraft carrier embodies,” said Sicola. “To the shipyard maintenance teams who put in countless hours to prepare this warship for sea, to the thousands of dedicated Sailors on board who sacrifice for their country, and to the families back home who support us along the way – ‘teamwork is a tradition’ on Nimitz and we could not have accomplished this mission without the steadfast commitment to this historic ship.”

U.S. Navy Capt. Craig Sicola, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68), front seat, and Cmdr. Luke Edwards, commanding officer of the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, make an arrested landing in an F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-22 marking the 350,000th time the carrier has landed a fixed-wing aircraft on its flight deck. Nimitz is in US 7th Fleet conducting routine operations.

As first in its class, Nimitz is the namesake for all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the Fleet. Over the decades, tens of thousands of Sailors have embarked on Nimitz to fulfill missions around the globe. Since commissioning nearly 50 years ago, Nimitz has sailed 30 deployments and served in countless operations and missions.

Nimitz serves as the flagship of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (NIMCSG). The NIMCSG is currently on a regularly-scheduled deployment in the US 7th Fleet area of operations.

“As we sail through the South China Sea, we celebrate this once in a lifetime achievement, 350,000 arrested landings, over a hundred years of innovation in the U.S. Aircraft Carrier, and the determination, sacrifice and winning spirit of all past and present Naval Aviators and our Sailors” said Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander, Carrier Strike Group 11. “This landmark is a testament to the nation’s commitment to fly, sail and operate around the globe promoting peace and security just as “Old Salt – the NIMITZ” has done for the past 48 years.”

The 350,000th trap represents a significant moment in the history of the ship. Nimitz’s first arrested landing was conducted in 1975, the same year of the ship’s commissioning. Capt. Bryan Compton, Nimitz’s first commanding officer, made history by completing the first landing.

U.S. Navy Capt. Craig Sicola, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68), front seat, and Cmdr. Luke Edwards, commanding officer of the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, make an arrested landing in an F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-22 marking the 350,000th time the carrier has landed a fixed-wing aircraft on its flight deck. Nimitz is in US 7th Fleet conducting routine operations.

Although the ship has sailed in several oceans and has homeported in multiple locations, the constant throughout the decades has been the tenacity of the ship’s crew day in and day out – without which not a single landing could have been possible.

“Although aircraft are critical to our mission, the aviators and maintainers that fly and operate our aircraft are truly the reason for our success,” said Capt. Christopher Hurst, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17. “This milestone showcases our Sailors’ precision and operational excellence to execute hundreds of thousands of landings on Nimitz.”

Nimitz’s aircraft launch and recovery equipment (ALRE) division is responsible for operating and maintaining the ship’s catapults and arresting gear.

“We have been looking forward to achieving this milestone for a long time,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Robert Reed, leading chief petty officer of ALRE division. “The Sailors made all of this possible by manning our equipment and ensuring the proper execution of our mission. Their dedication and determination is inspiring, and I am proud to be a part of team Nimitz. This landing could not have been done without their commitment to the ship.”

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Before celebrating the historic 350,000th arrested landing aboard Nimitz, flight deck personnel quickly got back to work. Sailors reset the arresting cable, taxied aircraft out of the landing area, and reset the deck – there were still more aircraft to land. Mighty Nimitz had to get ready for trap number 350,001.

As already reported, the 48-year-old USS Nimitz will leave service in 2026, one year later than last year’s plan, the US Navy revealed in its latest long-range shipbuilding plan.

According to the plan Nimitz will remove a year-long buffer between Nimitz and the decommissioning of carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

USS Nimitz was ordered in 1967 as a development of the ten-year-old USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Although dimensionally smaller than the Enterprise, the Nimitz Class use fewer but more powerful nuclear reactors, have a higher displacement, and operate roughly the same number of aircraft. Like the Enterprise, the use of nuclear reactors allowed the carriers’ superstructure to be much smaller, with no need for large funnels, allowing greater space on the flight deck. USS Nimitz was launched in May 1972 and, after extensive trials, commissioned in May 1975. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) both followed within five years. As told by RAF Museum, originally, they were classified as attack carriers, but with the commission of the Carl Vinson this changed to a combined attack and anti-submarine role.

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Hannah Kantner, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Calabrese / US Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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