It was October 2006, and a U.S. Navy fleet was on a routine military exercise in the South China Sea between southern Japan and Taiwan. Defended by a flotilla of battleships, the centerpiece of the fleet was the formidable aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. But in spite of the power of this mighty armada, trouble lay in wait. A spotter saw something five miles from the Kitty Hawk, and it was a sighting that shocked military personnel to the core.
The U.S.S. Kitty Hawk was named after the location where the Wright brothers achieved the world’s first powered plane flight: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Classed as a supercarrier, the ship was launched in 1960 from the Camden, New Jersey, yard where she was built.
From bow to stern, the Kitty Hawk measured more than 1,069 feet. As a result, steam turbine engines powering four propeller shafts drove the ship through the ocean. She was so large, in fact, that she could carry 85 aircraft, including 40 Super Hornet fighter-bombers. And to keep this vessel and its planes in ship-shape order, some 4,500 personnel crewed her.