The U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet command ship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19),
commanded by Captain Andrew G. Sevald, and carrying approximately 950
crew and Fleet staff members (including the Commander 7th Fleet, Vice
Admiral Robert F. Willard) arrived in Hong Kong on 17 February 2003 for
a brief port call.
Courtesy of the U.S. Consulate General, and thanks to committee member
Arthur Bowring, fifteen branch members and guests were offered places on
The two Amphibious Command ships of the Blue Ridge class are the only
U.S. Navy ships to have been designed for this role. Earlier command
ships lacked sufficient speed to keep up with a 20-knot amphibious
force. USS Blue Ridge was conceived in 1963 and was in the planning and
design stage for four years. She was built by the Philadelphia Naval
Shipyard in 1967 and was commissioned on 14 November 1970. From 1971 to
1979 she operated from San Diego, California, from where she deployed
throughout the Pacific. In 1975 she earned the Meritorious Unit and Navy
Unit Commendations for her role in the evacuation of Saigon.
Since October 1979 she has been based in Yokosuka, Japan, as flagship of
Commander Seventh Fleet. From August 1990 to May 1991 she was deployed
as flagship for Commander United States Naval Forces Central Command
during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, for which she earned
another Navy Unit Commendation.
The Seventh Fleet area of responsibility for U.S. Navy operations
encompasses 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans,
stretching from Madagascar to Hawaii. On average, there are 50 ships,
200 aircraft and approximately 20,000 sailors operating in the area.
After a security check and baggage search, our launches departed from
Fenwick Pier, and we boarded from a large floating pontoon.
The Blue Ridge class has the same basic hull form and machinery as the
Iwo Jima-class of Amphibious Assault ships, which were decommissioned in
1993. However, Blue Ridge is outfitted with the latest command, control
and communications technology, and is expected to remain in service
Our tour began at the Tactical Flag Command Centre. The Joint Maritime
Command Information System (JMCIS) consists of numerous powerful
computers distributed throughout the ship from which information and
data from world-wide sources are entered into a central database. This
single integrated database concentrates the available information into a
complete tactical picture of air, surface and sub-surface contacts,
enabling the Fleet Commander to quickly assess and concentrate on any
situation that might arise. This ability to access information from
military and civilian sources throughout the world gives Blue Ridge an
unparalleled global command and control capability.
An extremely refined communications system is also an integral part of
the ship's design. Through an automated patch panel and
computer-controlled switching matrix, any combination of communications
equipment desired may be quickly connected.
Blue Ridge normally sails unescorted, as she can fulfil her function
from any geographical position and does not need to put herself in harms
way. Operations can be directed just as efficiently from her berth in
Yokosuka as from the Indian Ocean, but she is expected to spend about 93
days away from base this year.
We were shown around the ship's main deck, remarkable for its barren
appearance, and allowing plenty of space for exercise. We were informed
that no off duty crew members are allowed on deck between sunset and
sunrise. The "clean" topside area is the result of careful design
intended to keep the ship's interference to her own communications
system at a minimum. Lookouts armed with machine guns kept watch for
unauthorised craft attempting to approach, while picket launches were
also employed to keep harbour traffic at a comfortable distance.
The ship carries three Landing Craft (Personnel), two Landing Craft
(Vehicle/Personnel) and one personnel launch. Although no helicopter
hangar is provided there is a landing pad at the stern and a helicopter
is carried whenever the ship is away from Yokosuka. 123,510 gallons of
aircraft fuel are carried.
We next visited the ship's navigation bridge. The ship's original
standard compass binnacle and wheel have been relegated to the trophy
section of the quarter-deck, and the ship has recently been fitted with
the ECDIS electronic chart system.
We completed the visit with a quick tour of the accommodation, including
fitness rooms and spacious galleys and messing areas. The staff officers
mess separately from ship's officers, while there is one mess for all
petty officers, and another for all enlisted crew. Blue Ridge can carry
over 250 officers, 1100 enlisted men and 100 enlisted females. She
carries enough food to feed the crew for ninety days and can transport
supplies to support an emergency evacuation of 3,000 people. The ship
makes over 100,000 gallons of fresh water daily. The ship carries 2,800
tons of fuel, giving her a range of 13,000 miles at 16 knots.
Power Plant: Two boilers, one geared turbine, one shaft; 22,000 horsepower
Length overall: 634 feet (190 metres)
Beam extreme: 108 feet (32 metres)
Loaded draft: 26 feet 9 inches
Loaded displacement: 18,817 metric tons
Speed 23 knots
Weapons 2 - 20-mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close In Weapons System
4 - 50 cal machine guns
Electronics SPS-64(V)9 (navigation radar)
SPS-67(V)1 (surface search radar)
SPS-40E (air search radar)
SPS-48E (3-D air search radar)
Electronic Warfare SLQ-32(V)3 (active/passive)
Mk 36 SRBOC DLS
AN/SLQ-25 NIXIE SSTD Nixie towed acoustic torpedo decoy
Aircraft All helicopters except the CH-53 Sea Stallion can be carried
Ship's crew 52 officers, 790 enlisted
Unit Operating Cost Annual Average $37,000,000