The accident was caused by an explosion of an MK-32 Zuni rocket attached to an F-4 Phantom fighter jet parked on a carrier deck.
On this day in 1969, a powerful explosion occurred on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. The carrier was located near Hawaii at the time, and an explosion killed 27 people and wounded an additional 314. The carrier of the USS Enterprise was then the pride of the US fleet. It entered service in the early 1960s as the first nuclear aircraft carrier in world history. With a length of 342 meters, the USS Enterprise still holds the record for the longest warship ever made.
The explosion on a nuclear aircraft carrier was particularly dangerous given that there were as many as eight nuclear reactors on the USS Enterprise (today’s Nimitz class carriers have only two reactors and are slightly shorter than the USS Enterprise). The accident to date occurred when an MK-32 Zuni rocket attached to a F-4 Phantom fighter jet parked on a carrier deck exploded.
The rocket exploded, probably due to heat exposure from a nearby source. A fire that erupted after the blast destroyed as many as 15 planes, and the USS Enterprise had to stay anchored at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for more than two months for repair.