AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: HOW THE USS BLUE RIDGE CONTINUES TO SERVE
By Buddy Blouin
On November 14, 1970, the USS Blue Ridge was launched, and it's been helping to defend American interests ever since. Originally built to replace the aging USS Estes, the amphibious command ship would serve the U.S. Navy for years to come. In fact, it’s still going strong today, and the plan is to keep it that way until at least 2039. Despite calls from concerned individuals and groups who are sounding the alarm about an aging naval force, the ship has proven time and time again that no matter what the call is, it’s ready to execute its missions. Unfortunately, with the USS Blue Ridge decommissioning date set well over a decade away, its greatest challenge may lie ahead.
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Where Is the USS Blue Ridge?You can find the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) based out of its homeport in Yokosuka, Japan. It is here that the USS Blue Ridge serves as the flagship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. It’s a strategic location that helps the U.S. and its allies in Asia maintain peace, stability, and the ability to respond quickly to disasters in the region. The ship is the third ship to be named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, a notable landmark that is a part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Despite having some obvious years between the creation of the ship and today’s naval theaters, it still remains one of the most technologically advanced warships in the world. The capabilities found on the USS Blue Ridge help it maintain its status as a leading force in Asia and around the world. Its primary functions include gathering intelligence, administering commands, maintaining clear communication, and taking advantage of its superior computing capabilities.
Notable Moments for the ShipThe USS Blue Ridge has been involved in many notable moments. Some of these are good in the sense that they helped protect people, such as the Evacuation of Saigon. The ship also took part in other major events while defending America and democracy throughout the Vietnam War. But there have also been darker times surrounding the ship. For example, the Fat Leonard scandal. An ongoing scandal that involves alleged breaches of security in the Navy with many instances tied to the USS Blue Ridge, specifically. During this time, sensitive information was bought from U.S. Sailors by a Malaysian defense contractor, Leonard Glenn Francis aka, “Fat Leonard." Various payments ranging from cash to prostitutes as well as wild parties have put a damper on the ship’s reputation.
Suggested Read: 4 Naval Officers Found Guilty After $35 Million Fraud in Fat Leonard CaseNevertheless, despite these events in question, the ship remains an integral part of the U.S. Navy’s past, present, and future. Especially, with heightened tensions throughout Asia from multiple geopolitical forces. But warfare isn’t the only aspect of the ship's operational superiority. Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the USS Blue Ridge was one of the many ships to take on Operation Tomodachi. This mission would see the ship and its crew assisting in disaster relief in the aftermath of the natural disaster. Additionally, the USS Blue Ridge accident involving a helicopter crash would throw the ship’s crew into search and rescue mode. Not only would the U.S. Navy recover an MH-60S helicopter from record depth, but thankfully, those aboard were able to escape and were safely recovered.
The USS Blue Ridge Continues to ServeOngoing scandals and many decades of service aren’t slowing down the leader of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet. Make no mistake about it, the ship is positioned exactly where it needs to be to help maintain a suitable force for potential conflicts in Asia. North Korea continues to be provocative in its pursuit of creating and potentially launching a nuclear weapon. This is a grave threat to South Korea, Japan, and many others in the region. Since the fall of the Empire of Japan and the end of the Korean War, the U.S. has had an active military presence throughout the region. And then there's China. Many believe that we are only a couple of years away from a conflict with the Asian nuclear power. The dispute over Taiwan could be a point of no return in which the U.S., Japan, and others may enter a complex, deadly war. Such a war would take place on any and every battlefield imaginable, but the sea is likely to take center stage for many notable conflicts. The good news is despite the ship’s age, the technology continues to prove effective and useful for Sailors. The hope is that conflict can be avoided altogether, but if it becomes inevitable, our Sailors need to be ready. With superior capabilities and strategic positioning, the USS Blue Ridge is one of our best options for deterring and defending against war in the Pacific.
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