LCC 19 Blue Ridge class
Amphibious Command ships provide command and control for fleet commanders. Commissioned in 1970, these are the only ships to be designed initially for an amphibious command ship role. Earlier amphibious command ships lacked sufficient speed to keep up with a 20-knot amphibious force.
Funded by the U.S. Congress as dedicated amphibious command ships, the LCCs combine an impressive suite of communications equipment with spacious staff working areas. The Mt. Whitney and her sister ship, the USS Blue Ridge, had nonetheless been taken over by their respective fleet commanders to serve as their flagships. USS Blue Ridge became the Seventh Fleet command ship in 1979, and USS Mount Whitney became the Second Fleet command ship in 1981. The Marines and their amphibious (or "gator") Navy partners had been relegated to amphibious assault ships (LHAs).
The ships have the same machinery and basic hullform as the Iwo Jima-class LPH. The are air-conditioned, with fin stabilizers. Kevlar plastic armor has been added. Three LCP, two LCVP landing craft, and one personnel launch are carried. No helicopter hangar is included, but they do have a landing pad at the stern and carry 123,510 gallons of aircraft fuel.
LCC 19 received the Mk 15 CIWS in 1985 and LCC 20 in 1987, with added stern sponson and bow bulwarks lengthening the ships some 15 ft overall. Satellite communications antennas on after masts differ; equipment includes SSR-1, WSC-3 UHF, WSC-6 SHF, and USC-38 SHF. Combat data analysis systems include: ACIS (Amphibious Command Information System); NIPS (Naval Intelligence Processing System); NTDS (with Link 4A, 11, and 14), and photographic laboratories and document-publication facilities. Command facilities include a Ship Signals Exploitation Space (SSES), Flag Plot, Landing Force Operations Center (LFOC), Joint Intelligence Center (JIC), Supporting Arms Coordination Center (SACC), Helicopter Logistics Support Group (HLSG), Tactical Air Control Center (TACC), Helicopter Direction Center (HDC), and Helicopter Coordination Section (HCS). Planned armament modifications include installing Mk 49 launchers for the RAM point-defense missile fore and aft; also planned for installation was the TAS Mk 23 target acquisition radar, but this is now unlikely to occur. The SPS-48C 3-D air search radar was replaced by SPS-48E sets taken from retired cruisers during the mid-1990s. Two twin 76.2-mm DP gunmounts and two octuple Mk 25 BPDMS SAM launchers were removed during 1992. Have the SMQ-6 weather satellite receiver. They are to receive the Joint Services Imagery Processing System-Navy (JSIPS-N).
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) 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 commissioned November 14, 1970. Unlike her World War II predecessor of the same name, which had to be converted from a merchantman to an Amphibious Force flagship, the new 620-foot United States Ship Blue Ridge (LCC 19) represents a unique effort and achievement in the Navy's Command and Control ship design. Here for the first time is a platform built from the keel up to accomplish the mission of Command and Control coordination. In this 18,500 ton ship are found the facilities to direct and manage every phase of command and control operations. Blue Ridge represents the accumulated knowledge of four decades of the Navy's experience in meeting difficult challenges of Control and Coordination.
Blue Ridge utilizes her "main battery" of computers, communications equipment and other electronic facilities to fulfill her mission as flagship for the United States Seventh Fleet. These systems are also instrumental in her secondary function as a command ship for the Amphibious Task Force and Landing Force Commanders during all phases of fleetwide operations, as well as a Commander Joint Task Force (CJTF) flagship when national interests require it.
The Blue Ridge is the most capable command ship ever built, with an extremely sophisticated Command and Control system. The Joint Maritime Command Information System (JMCIS) consists of numerous powerful computers distributed throughout the ship from which information and data from worldwide sources are entered into a central database. This single integrated database concentrates the available information into a complete tactical picture of air, surface and subsurface contacts, enabling the Fleet Commander to quickly assess and concentrate on any situation which might arise. This ability to access information from military and civilian sources throughout the world gives Blue Ridge a global command and control capability unparalleled in Naval history.
In addition to her sophisticated command and control system, an extremely refined communications system is also an integral part of the ship's radical new design. Through an automated patch panel and computer-controlled switching matrix, any combination of communications equipment desired may be quickly connected. 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.
A description of Blue Ridge would not be complete without mention of her twenty-knot plus speed capability. She is a great improvement in ship design, not only in speed, but also in habitability. Fitness rooms, air conditioning, ship's stores, spacious galleys and messing areas all help make life at sea a great deal more pleasant for the crew and embarked staffs. Blue Ridge has accommodations for over 250 officers, 1200 enlisted men and 100 enlisted females.
Homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) was constructed by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and is named for the 14,946-foot peak in the Sierra-Nevada range in California, the highest point in the lower continental United States. It is the first U.S. Navy ship to bear this name. Mount Whitney serves as the Flagship for Commander Second Fleet / Commander Striking Fleet Atlantic and has a complement of 450 enlisted personnel and officers. Mount Whitney was the first U.S. Navy combatant to permanently accommodate women on board.
The ship's afloat communications capability is second to none. Mount Whitney can receive and transmit large amounts of secure data from any point on earth through HF, UHF, VHF, SHF, and EHF communications paths. This technology enables the Joint Intelligence Center and Joint Operations Center to provide the most timely intelligence and operational support available in the Navy.
Mount Whitney carries enough food to feed the crew for 90 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 over one million gallons of fuel -- enough for a round trip, 16-knot, 35-day voyage from Norfolk, Virginia to Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. The ship's two anchors weigh 11 tons each and are attached to 180 fathoms (or 1,080 feet) of anchor chain. Each chain weighs almost 25 tons. Total electrical capacity is 7,500 kilowatts, a sufficient amount to power a small city.
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