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The oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, made its final departure from Japan on Wednesday to be decommissioned after nearly half a century of service.
The Kitty Hawk, the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier in the Navy, is to be replaced later this summer by the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered carrier.
After leaving Japan, the Kitty Hawk will make a stop at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and then travel on to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, to be decommissioned.
The ship, commissioned in 1961, became the first forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the Navy when it was assigned to Japan in 1998. It has since made 20 deployments in the western Pacific and participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.
"Since it arrived in August 1998, the Kitty Hawk has been a visible symbol of strength in a rapidly changing world," U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer said. "Goodbye Kitty Hawk, hello George Washington."