Opening USS John F. Kennedy as a museum ship in Newport, RI

For “Middletown” read “Newport.”

Anyone who has driven over the 138 bridge will have seen the decommissioned USS Saratoga (CV-60) and the USS Forrestal (CV-59) moored at the old NAVSTA Newport destroyer piers. The Forrestal has been towed to NISMF Philadephia pending a final trip to the breaker’s yard… but why the museum group is expending effort on bringing the Big John to Newport instead of moving quickly to secure the Sara… you know, because it’s already there… oh well… I say “good luck to ’em!” and let’s hope the Navy plays nice.

Group trying to bring retired aircraft carrier to R.I. as a museum

The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, the last conventionally powered carrier built by the Navy, was retired in 2007.

MIDDLETOWN — A vote last week by the Middletown Town Council in support of bringing the retired aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy to Rhode Island to use as a museum will help move the project forward, according to the president of the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame.

The 6-to-1 vote doesn’t commit the town but it shows the Navy, which will decide if the group can have the ship, that the local government is in support of the effort, said Frank Lennon, the president of the non-profit Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame.

Lennon said the group, which has been working since 2010 to bring the aircraft carrier to Rhode Island, hopes to dock the ship on federal land at the naval station. The plan is to locate the carrier at the Navy’s northernmost pier and move the fence line so it is accessible to the public. This plan would free visitors from having to go through the Navy base’s strict security.

The next step for the group is to come up with a proposal to move the fence line, Lennon said. He said the group expects to have a proposal within about two months.

Lennon said bringing the aircraft carrier to Rhode Island would produce jobs and attract visitors to the state and will not cost residents.

Lennon said $10.5 million in a conditional federal loan guarantee and pledges have been identified from money that was to go to the Saratoga project at Quonset Point before the Navy decided to scrap the Saratoga. He said $25 million to $35 million would be needed to pay for the project and that the group will commence to raise money.

The John F. Kennedy, known as Big John, was the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier built by the Navy and once carried 4,600 crew members and 70 combat aircraft. It was active in both Iraq wars and the war in Afghanistan and decommissioned in 2007.