Support: Retirement Deferred


June 11, 2011: The U.S. Navy has decided not to replace its two aging command ships (Mount Whitney and Blue Ridge), even though both are nearly 40 years old. Instead, both will be refurbished, so they can last another three decades. At that point, after more than 70 years of service, the two vessels will be too worn out for another refurbishment and will have to be retired. The U.S. has only has two of these ships, as two older ones were retired in 2005 and 2006, and orders for new ones were cancelled.

Command ships give the United States Navy the ability to position a major headquarters anywhere in the world. Each ship is equipped with powerful communications and computer capability, as well as working and living accommodations for hundreds of personnel. During World War II, command ships were found to be invaluable for running large amphibious operations, and giving the ground commanders a place to work before they moved their headquarters ashore. Command ships were also invaluable for providing mobile headquarters for the huge American Pacific fleet that, during World War II, was constantly moving long distances, and had to coordinate the repositioning of huge quantities of supplies, and thousands of ships and aircraft. With no more large amphibious operations to handle, command ships evolved into their present form, as mobile headquarters ready to go anywhere they were needed.

Despite the availability of satellite communications today, the command ship is still valuable, and an insurance policy in case some of your satellites get shot down or jammed. Earlier command ships were converted amphibious or transport ships. The Blue Ridge and Mount Whitney, however, were built as command ships in the late 1960s. These are 18,900 ton vessels with a top speed of 42 kilometers per hour and has a crew of 325. There are accommodations for several hundred command personnel. Armament is light, consisting of two Phalanx anti-missile cannon, two 25mm autocannon and four 12.7mm machine guns. There are also missile and torpedo decoy systems. There is also a helicopter pad, and one SH-60 helicopter is carried.

The major equipment on board are computerized communications systems that can handle lots of encrypted (coded) message traffic with lots of different allies. One of these ships is based in Italy, the other in Japan. When not at sea, they serve as floating headquarters, usually for one of the navy's fleets, while tied up at pier side.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close