U.S. 7th Fleet flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), operated with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) JS Kongo (DDG 173), March 29, 2021, as a test of the partner nation’s combined maritime skills and intercommunication capabilities, the U.S. Navy announced with a press release.
The exercise consisted of multiple ships sailing in formation while practicing communications and maneuvering procedures to increase and improve cooperation and interoperability with naval counterparts in the region. Unique to this exercise was the aircraft’s participation embarked aboard Blue Ridge, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12, which flew in formation with the ships and transferred Capt. Waits from Blue Ridge to Kongo during maneuvers to engage with leadership and visit the ship’s crew.
“In addition to improving the JMSDF’s tactical capabilities, we have deepened interoperability with the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. Fujisaki Masaru, commanding JS Kongo officer, “I am convinced that we can improve deterrence and interoperability in response to possible contingencies through regular bilateral exercises such as the one we conducted.”
Blue Ridge has been forward-deployed and operating in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) for more than 40 years, continuing her primary mission of supporting Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet while conducting sustained operations at sea. Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the Navy, and as the U.S.7th Fleet command ship, it is responsible for patrolling and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region.
“This combined exercise consisted of two forces from different nations working together toward a single end, which to me, represents strengthening alliances at the fleet level, and is something our Sailors, their families back home, and our country can be proud of,” said Waits.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19)
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) is the lead ship of the two Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ships of the United States Navy and is the Seventh Fleet flagship. USS Blue Ridge’s primary role is to provide command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) support to the United States Seventh Fleet commander and staff. She is currently forward-deployed to U.S. Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka in Japan. After the USS Blue Ridge Mountains, she is the third Navy ship named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, a range of mountains in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. Blue Ridge is the oldest deployed warship of the U.S. Navy, following the decommissioning of USS Denver. As the U.S. Navy’s active commissioned ship having the most prolonged total period as active, Blue Ridge flies the First Navy Jack instead of the jack of the United States. Blue Ridge is expected to remain in service until 2039.