Final voyage: Navy pays one cent to scrap aircraft carrier

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The USS Ranger's last voyage will cost the Navy a penny -- and one of its most legendary aircraft carriers.

The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has paid one red cent to transport and break apart a third super carrier -- USS Ranger (CV-61) -- after once again finding no takers willing to turn it into a museum docked in the Pacific Northwest. The aircraft carrier -- which was featured in the movie "Top Gun" -- will embark on its final voyage in early 2015 to International Shipbreaking’s facility in Brownsville, Texas.

“Under the contract, the company will be paid $0.01. The price reflects the net price proposed by International Shipbreaking, which considered the estimated proceeds from the sale of the scrap metal to be generated from dismantling," officials for NAVSEA said in a statement released on Monday. "[One cent] is the lowest price the Navy could possibly have paid the contractor for towing and dismantling the ship."

The Ranger has been docked in Bremerton, Wash., for the past eight years in the hopes that veterans’ and historical societies could raise funds to have it sent to Oregon to become a museum on the shores of the Columbia River in the vein of The Intrepid Museum in New York City.


“We would have liked to have seen it become a museum, but it just wasn’t in the cards,” Navy spokesman Chris Johnson told “But unfortunately, it is a difficult proposition to raise funds. The group that was going to collect donations had a $35 million budget plan but was only able to raise $100,000.”

The Ranger was one of the most historic ships in the Navy’s fleet. It is one of four 66,000-ton Forestall-class carriers and known as one of the first “supercarriers” when it was first put into commission in 1957. It was the only ship of its class to stay stationed in the Pacific Ocean and was the first to not only carry the A-7 attack jet and Sea Sprite helicopter, but it was also the first to embark an all-female flight crew from its deck. The ship also served in extensively in the Vietnam War-- where it earned 13 battle stars -- and Operation Desert Storm before being decommissioned in 1993. The Ranger was then put on hold for possible reactivation until March 2004 when it was redesigned for donation.

The Ranger also was in a slew of movies and television shows, including "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Flight of the Intruder" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" where it stood in for the USS Enterprise carrier. The Ranger’s most famous role was in the 1980’s Tom Cruise hit, "Top Gun."


“It certainly has a storied history,” Johnson said.

The Ranger will have to be towed to International Shipbreaking’s facility on the Gulf of Mexico from the pacific bit since it is too large for passage through the Panama Canal, it will have to be towed down and around South America. The voyage is anticipated to take up to five months.

Johnson said that the tow will come at no cost to the Navy and the International Shipbreakers is currently drafting a towing plan and will absorb the costs.

This is the fourth carrier that was planned to be scrapped in recent years. In February, the USS Forrestal also was sold to a scrap metal company for a penny.

The U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier was shut down in 1993 after more than 38 years of service, and was being towed Tuesday morning down the Delaware River and along the Eastern Seaboard before crossing the Gulf of Mexico to reach All Star Metals in Brownsville. U.S. Navy officials signed a 1-cent contract with the Texas company in October to dismantle the ship perhaps best known for a 1967 incident that killed 134 and injured more than 300 others, including a young Navy aviator named John McCain.

In June, the USS Constellation was sold to International Shipbreaking, but at a much higher price, with the company paying the military arm $3 million.

All ships, along with the USS Saratoga, were part of a five-year scrapping plan by the Navy.