Mount Whitney and her sister ship may be considered the most sophisticated Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence ships ever commissioned.
USS Mount Whitney, one of two Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ships of the United States Navy and is the flagship and command ship of the United States Sixth Fleet. The other is called USS Blue Ridge, these are the oldest ship of the US Navy, but also the most advanced ships.
The hull has been applied technology 50 years ago, the computer and communication system is also among the most modern in the world. Unlike many envisioned, the flagship of the Sixth Fleet was not equipped with many state-of-the-art weapons.
Her greatest strength is in the communication system serving the command of a powerful US Navy fleet, she also serves as the Afloat Command Platform of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.
Mount Whitney was classified as LCC-20 on January 1, 1969, and her keel was laid down on January 8 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia. The name of this command ship itself has an interesting origin. Mount Whitney is a peak in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, this is the highest summit in the contiguous United States, with an elevation of 4421m. She is the first ship in the US Navy to bear this name.
Mount Whitney and her sister ship may be considered the most sophisticated Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence ships ever commissioned, but the public can only see their outer parts. The 189-meter ship, with a displacement of 18,400 tons, was fitted with a series of antennas in the superstructure.
Commissioned in 1971, these are the only ships to be designed initially for an amphibious command ship role. The Mount Whitney’s propulsion system is two boilers, one geared turbine, driving one shaft. The vessel can move at a maximum speed of 23 Knots, afford to keep up the amphibious forces.
The ship has the same machinery and basic hullform as the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ships. The ships are air-conditioned, with fin stabilizers, some areas on the ship are covered with Kevlar material to reduce combat damage. Three Landing Craft Personnel, two LCVP landing craft, and one personnel launch are carried.
No helicopter hangar is included, but she does have a landing pad at the stern and carry 123,510 gallons of aircraft fuel. An MH-60S helicopter is often equipped with the ship to carry out logistics missions and help officers move between warships.
USS Mount Whitney has a complement of 150 enlisted personnel, 12 officers and 150 Civilian Mariners from Military Sealift Command. The vessel was the first US Navy combatant to permanently accommodate women on board. 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 100,000 gallons of fresh water daily and 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 of anchor chain. Each chain weighs almost 25 tons. Total electrical capacity is 7,500 kilowatts, a sufficient amount to power a small city.
Not only gaining attention from the special name, USS Mount Whitney is actually a fully equipped naval ship. The ship can receive, process and transmit large amounts of secure data from any point on earth through communications paths. This technology enables the Joint Intelligence Center and Joint Operations Center to gather and fuse critical information while on the move.
USS Mount Whitney incorporates various elements of the most advanced Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence equipment and gives the embarked Joint Task Force Commander the capability to effectively command widely dispersed air, ground and maritime units in an integrated fashion.
This is a warship designed for permanent missions on the battlefield to command the fleet, that makes Mount Whitney equipped with two Phalanx Close-in weapon system, two 25 mm Bushmaster cannons with remote control and four 12.7 mm machine guns.
The ship is also fitted with Mark 36 SRBOC chaff rockets and electronic warfare complexes to deal with anti-ship missiles.
From 1971 to 2005, Mount Whitney served as the flagship for Commander Second Fleet. She operated in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Horn of Africa respectively, on a variety of missions before reaching Gaeta of Italy in 2005. From here on, the naval ship officially assumed duties as the 6th Fleet flagship instead of the USS La Salle. She also assumed duties as the command ship for the Commander, Joint Command Lisbon and the Commander Striking Force NATO.
In August 2008, Mount Whitney was deployed to the Black Sea in support of Operation Assured Delivery to deliver humanitarian aid to those affected by the Russo-Georgian War and became the first NATO ship to deliver aid to port of Poti, Georgia.
Then in 2011 USS Mount Whitney became the main command vessel of the US Marines during the attack on Libya. Since then, she has been continuously repaired and further upgrades to its information technology infrastructure, and various engineering refurbishments. The strength and importance of USS Mount Whitney make her a leading target in electronic warfare and cyberattack. Washington was forced to supplement defensive measures, while commanding officers had to adapt to changes in actual combat. Most recently, in November 2018 she served as the command vessel for the NATO exercise Trident Juncture.
Currently the US Navy has not found a solution to replace the Blue Ridge class. The cost of developing a new class of command ship will be very expensive, even when taking advantage of the existing hull frame such as the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock. USS Blue Ridge and USS Mount Whitney were built very solidly, but their steam turbines were also outdated, limiting their future use.
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