KOTA KINABALU: A US warship that is almost half a century old but equipped with the most advanced computing and networking systems in the country’s entire naval fleet will be in town over the next four days to enable its personnel to savour Sabah culture.
The USS Blue Ridge, the US’ 7th Fleet flagship, arrived in this port city today after a busy schedule at the Langkawi International and Maritime Exhibition 2019 recently.
This is not the first time this amphibious command and control ship is in Kota Kinabalu. The 636ft-long vessel was last in the state capital in 2011.
Deputy commander of the 7th Fleet, Rear Admiral Ted LeClair, said the sailors and crew were keen to see more of Malaysia after visiting Langkawi.
“These visits that we do throughout the year are a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN),” he said.
Blue Ridge commanding officer Capt Eric Anduze said his personnel are excited about Kota Kinabalu.
“A lot of us have never been here. It has been almost 10 years since this ship last visited. We were looking forward to it,” he said during a media tour of his ship today.
As the fleet’s flagship, the Blue Ridge provides mobile command and control capability throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our role is to provide command control, communications, computers and intelligence to the commander of the 7th fleet, Vice-Admiral Phillip Sawyer, from anywhere in the world,” Anduze said.
“We have an extremely robust communication and computing system. We are larger than destroyers, which are some 300 feet long, while carriers are 1,000 feet long,” he said.
He added they have a crew of 1,050 onboard, 650 of whom are Blue Ridge sailors while the rest serve the 7th fleet’s commander directly.
During the visit, the 7th Fleet staff will have professional exchanges with counterparts from the Royal Malaysian Navy. They will also be involved in community projects and volunteer work at the Seri Mengasih Centre for special children.
Built as a steamship and commissioned on Nov 14, 1970, the USS Blue Ridge has been stationed at the Yokosuka naval base in Japan since 1979 and served in the Gulf War during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.