US aircraft carrier departs Japan for retirement
The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, the oldest active warship in the US Navy, departed Japan for the last time on Wednesday to head home for decommissioning, the dpa reported.
Kitty Hawk came into service in 1961 and supported US missions in Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and the March 2003 invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein's regime. The warship spent decades patrolling the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Kitty Hawk had been the only US aircraft carrier based at a foreign port before leaving Yokosuka, Japan on a journey to Bremerton, Washington, where it will be retired later this year.
Kitty Hawk, the only remaining conventionally propelled US large- deck carrier, will be replaced by the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered USS George Washington.
The planned deployment of the George Washington had generated some controversy in Japan over safety concerns posed by its two nuclear reactors. The US Navy maintains the ship is safe and points out that US nuclear-powered submarines have safely travelled through the Japanese port.
The George Washington last week experienced a fire while sailing off the coast of South America. Twenty-four crew members required medical treatment for minor injuries.
The blaze in the rear of the ship quickly spread through a cableway and caused extreme heat before it was extinguished. The ship's propulsion was never affected and its two reactors were not damaged, the Navy said of the May 22 incident.