The U.S. Navy is blessed to have a mighty fleet of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers – something Russia or China could only dream of these days. And yet, while the Nimitz-class will eventually be replaced with the new Ford-class carriers, these warships will sail for many decades to come. We present the story of one of these carriers: the USS Abraham Lincoln: Today USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is operationally the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 3 and host to Carrier Air Wing Nine. The fifth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and second United States Navy ship to be named after former President Abraham Lincoln – the first was a ballistic missile submarine – CVN-72 has also served as the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 12 (CSG-12) since April 2019.
Her keel was laid November 3, 1984, at Newport News, Virginia, and launched in 1988. USS Abraham Lincoln was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1989, and she is similar in design to the other Nimitz-class carriers – and is 1,092 feet in length, has a beam of 252 feet, and a draught of 41feet.
The warship displaces 97,000 tons while her flight deck, which is approximately 4.5 acres, is serviced by four hanger elevators. The flattop is also equipped with four steam catapults and can carry up to ninety fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. As a floating airbase, the carrier is home to 5,680 sailors and Marines, including the crew of 3,200 as well as 2,480 serving in the airwing. CVN-72 actually boasts many amenities found in an American city, including a post office (with its own ZIP code), TV and radio stations, newspaper, fire department, library, hospital, general store, and of course barbershops.
Over the past three decades, the carrier carried out multiple humanitarian missions in the Persian Gulf and Pacific region and took part in multiple combat operations.
USS Abraham Lincoln – Carrier Deployment
It was just two years after she entered service that USS Abraham Lincoln was ordered on her first Western Pacific deployment in response to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. However, while en route to the Indian Ocean, the warship was diverted to support evacuation operations following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo on Luzon Island, Republic of the Philippines, and led the efforts of Operation Fiery Vigil, the largest peacetime evacuation of active-duty military personnel and family members in history. The carrier subsequently led a 23-ship flotilla that successfully sea lifted 20,000 evacuees to safety.
CVN-72 continued regular deployments throughout the 1990s, and took part in Operations Southern Watch and Vigilant Sentinel in the late 1990s. The carrier was ordered back to the Persian Gulf in 2003 to take part in Operational Iraqi Freedom.
Beginning in 2013, the warship underwent her mid-life refueling and complex overhaul, during which more than 2.5 million man-hours of work were conducted on the carrier. She only rejoined the fleet in May 2017. With the completion of its forty-nine-and-a-half-month overhaul, Abraham Lincoln also became the first carrier in the U.S. Navy’s fleet that will be able to operate Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighters from its decks.
In January 2020, the carrier arrived at her new homeport in San Diego, completing a record-breaking 295 days at sea and on station with the U.S. Central Command. It was the longest deployment for any U.S. aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War.
USS Abraham Lincoln – Notable Firsts
Though she is the fifth Nimitz-class carrier, she was the first carrier able to not only embark the F-35, but USS Abraham Lincoln was also first Pacific Fleet carrier to integrate female aviators into the crew after the Combat Exclusion Laws was lifted in April 1993.
Earlier this year, Captain Amy Bauernschmidt took command of CVN-72 and became just one of the 11 commanders of aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy, and the first ever woman to rise to the role. What is also notable is that was only in November of 1993 – six months before Bauernschmidt’s graduation from that Naval Academy – that Congress passed the legislation allowing women to serve on U.S. Navy combatant ships. Bauernschmidt was previously the first woman to serve as an executive officer (XO) on board a carrier – a position she also held on the Abraham Lincoln from September 2016 to January 2019.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.