USS John C. Stennis: history and facts

Commissioned in 1995, the ship is part of Kitsap community

If stacked on top of one another, the number of required technical manuals for the USS John C. Stennis (CVN) would rise to 555 feet, a height equal to the Washington Monument.

John Cornelius Stennis, a Democrat from Mississippi, served in the United States Senate for 41 years, the most senior member upon his retirement, and is the namesake of the aircraft carrier, the Stennis Space Center, the Stennis Center for Public Leadership Service in Starkville, Miss., and more. The carrier’s motto is “Look Ahead” and her nickname is “Johnny Reb.”

When Stennis retired from the Senate in 1989 he had not lost an election in 60 years. He took a teaching post at Mississippi State University, his alma mater, which he held until his death in Jackson, Miss., at the age of 93.

One of Sen. Stennis’ most famous quotes is, “The cooperation of navies from around the world promises high tactical value for the ships, aircraft, and divers involved; while demonstrating international resolve in defending maritime security against potential threats.”

The aircraft carrier was contracted to be built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Co. in 1988 at Naval Station Norfolk Virginia. The keel was laid in 1991 and she was christened Nov. 11, 1993, before being commissioned Dec. 9, 1995. She conducted flight deck certification in January 1996.

The first arrested landing was by a VX-23 F-14B. The carrier conducted numerous carrier qualifications and independent steaming exercises off the East Coast throughout the next two years, including the first carrier landing of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet on January 18, 1997.

The mission of USS John C. Stennis and her embarked Air Wing is to conduct sustained combat air operations while forward deployed in the global arena. The embarked Air Wing consists of eight to nine squadrons. Attached aircraft are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, E-2C Hawkeye, and MH-60S Seahawk.

The Air Wing can destroy enemy aircraft, ships, submarines and land targets, or lay mines hundreds of miles from the ship. USS John C. Stennis’ aircraft are used to conduct strikes, support land battles, protect the Strike Group or other friendly shipping vessels, and implement a sea or air blockade. The Air Wing provides a visible presence to demonstrate American power and resolve in a crisis.

The ship normally operates as the centerpiece of a Carrier Strike Group commanded by a flag officer embarked in USS John C. Stennis and consisting of four to six other ships.

USS John C. Stennis’ two nuclear reactors give her virtually unlimited range and endurance and a top speed in excess of 30 knots. The ship’s four catapults and four arresting gear engines enable her to launch and recover aircraft rapidly and simultaneously.

The ship carries approximately three million gallons of fuel for her aircraft and escorts, and enough weapons and stores for extended operations without replenishment. USS John C. Stennis also has extensive repair capabilities, including a fully equipped Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, a micro-miniature electronics repair shop, and numerous ship repair shops.

For defense, in addition to her Air Wing and accompanying vessels, USS John C. Stennis has NATO Sea Sparrow short-range, surface-to-air missile systems, Rolling Airframe missiles (RAM), the Phalanx Close-in Weapons System (an extremely rapid firing 20mm gun) for cruise missile defense, and the SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System.