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Navy’s oldest warship comes out of Yokosuka dry dock after 19 months

The U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) is underway in the Philippine Sea (2013). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Karsten/Released)

The Navy’s oldest warship has completed a 19-month dry dock period designed to extend its life another 20 years.

The USS Blue Ridge, which serves as the flagship of the Yokosuka-based 7th Fleet, returned pier side this week at Yokosuka after an extended dry-dock selected restricted availability maintenance period, a Navy statement said.

It “received numerous upgrades, including installation of the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services computer system, modernization of the ship’s engineering plant, and refurbishment of the main condenser and ventilation systems,” the statement said. Installing CANES on a ship will “consolidate and modernize communications, computers and intelligence network systems,” according to Northrop Gruman. The Blue Ridge still needs additional repair work before returning to service, the Navy said. It is slated to receive engineering and electrical plant upgrades and living-quarters improvements.

Engineering plant issues will require the amphibious-command ship to undergo additional repairs for the next several months, 7th Fleet Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Adam Cole told Stars and Stripes.

“While modernization of Blue Ridge’s communications suite has gone very well, additional maintenance is required to address issues with the ship’s engineering plant which is nearing 50 years in service,” he said. “Once these repairs are finished, Blue Ridge will resume its role as Seventh Fleet’s command ship and play a critical role as our forces operate forward on a daily basis.”

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The ship entered dry dock in June 2016 for what was scheduled to be a 14-month period.

Commissioned in 1970, the Blue Ridge is the oldest deployable warship in the Navy and the second oldest still-active ship. Only the USS Constitution, which is primarily a ceremonial ship, is older. In 2011, the chief of naval operations extended the Blue Ridge’s service life into 2039.

The Blue Ridge is one of only two amphibious-command ships still in service. The other, the USS Mount Whitney, is the flagship of the Navy’s 6th Fleet out of Naples, Italy.

Before the Blue Ridge becomes operational, the Navy said the crew will undergo extensive training in search-and-rescue operations, navigation, seamanship, engineering proficiency and damage-control efforts.

“After about two years in the yards spent on crucial repairs and improvements, it’s the crew’s turn to get ready to get back on patrol and return to our mission once again,” Blue Ridge commander Capt. Brett Crozier in the statement. “I would like to especially thank the crew, family members, ship’s repair force workers, and others who have had a hand in modernizing Blue Ridge.”

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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