She was laid down 15 August 1970 at Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia, launched 11 October 1975 after christening by Mamie Doud-Eisenhower, and commissioned 18 October 1977, Captain William E. Ramsey in command.
Ike was initially assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, and after 14 months of training, sailed for her first deployment in the Mediterranean. Since that time, she has completed eight Mediterranean deployments, with one, in 1980 totalling 254 days at sea.
After her fourth deployment Ike went into Newport News and Drydock in October 1985 for a major overhaul. The 18-month yard period included the addition of the Close-in Weapons System, NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System, Navy Tactical Data System, anti-submarine warfare module, communications upgrades and rehabilitation of 1,831 berths in 25 compartments. Ike re-entered the fleet in April 1987.
In 1990, Ike completed her sixth Mediterranean deployment. The deployment became a commemorative event in the worldwide 'Dwight D. Eisenhower Centennial,' celebrating the 100th anniversary of the late president's birth. During D-Day anniversary ceremonies off the coast of Normandy, Ike's son John Eisenhower and D-Day veterans embarked in the ship, while Carrier Air Wing Seven conducted a memorial flyover of the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.
In response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Ike became the first carrier to conduct sustained operations in the Red Sea, and only the second nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ever to transit the Suez Canal. Ike served as a ready striking force in the event Iraq invaded Saudi Arabia, and participated in maritime interception operations in support of a United Nations embargo against Iraq.
After completion of an extensive shipyard period and work ups, Ike deployed 26 September 1991 to the Arabian Gulf to continue multi-national operations with coalition forces in support of Operation Desert Storm. Ike returned to Norfolk 2 April 1992, and on 6 January 1993, entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul and conversion, returning to the fleet 12 November 1993.
In September 1994, Ike and the US Army 10th Mountain Division first tried the concept of adaptive force packaging. The division's soldiers and equipment were loaded on board, and the Ike Army/Navy team headed for Port-au-Prince to lead Operation Uphold Democracy, the U.S.-led effort to restore the elected government of Haiti.
One month later, in October 1994, Ike departed for a six-month deployment which included flying missions in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Deny Flight. This deployment marked the first time that women had deployed as crew members of a U.S. Navy combatant. The Ike, Carrier Wing Three, and COMCRUDESGRU Eight team included more than 400 women.
Ike returned to Newport News Shipbuilding on 17 July 1995 for an 18-month complex overhaul which was completed on 27 January 1997. The ship departed on her 10th deployment on 10 June 10 1998 and returned in December. In February 1999, Ike returned to the Norfolk Navy Shipyard for a six-month refitting and returned to the fleet in June. Upon completion in June 1999, she returned to full duty in the fleet.
Ike earned the Battle "E" in both 1998 and 1999 as the most battle efficient carrier in the Atlantic Fleet. Ike also won the Atlantic Fleet Retention Excellence Award (aka the Golden Anchor Award) in 1999.
Deploying in February 2000 and returning that August on the "Millennium Cruise," for the first time Ike's embarked aircraft dropped ordnance "in anger" while supporting Operation Southern Watch's No-Fly Zone over Iraq. Ike returned on 18 August.
As of 2003, the Dwight D. Eisenhower is undergoing complex renovations and major technological upgrades during its scheduled half-life overhaul. Upon completion, the modernizations are expected to extend the ship's service life well beyond 2025.