U.S. 7th Fleet flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) operated with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) JS Kongo (DDG 173), March 29, 2021 as a test of the partner nation’s combined maritime skills and intercommunication capabilities. The exercise consisted of multiple ships sailing in formation while practicing communications and maneuvering procedures, with an aim toward increasing and improving cooperation and interoperability with naval counterparts in the region. Unique to this exercise was the participation of aircraft embarked aboard Blue Ridge, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12, which flew in formation with the ships and transferred Capt. Waits from Blue Ridge to Kongo during maneuvers to engage with leadership and visit the ship’s crew. Blue Ridge has been forward-deployed and operating in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) for more than 40 years, continuing her primary mission of supporting Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet while conducting sustained operations at sea.
“This bilateral exercise was an excellent display of solidarity with our host nation and the JMSDF,” said Blue Ridge Commanding Officer, Capt. Tim Waits. “It provided important training and experience that enables both crews to operate and communicate safely and effectively while working closely together. This combined exercise consisted of two forces from different nations working together toward a single end, which to me, represents strengthening alliances at the fleet level, and is something our Sailors, their families back home and our country can be proud of.”
“In addition to improving the JMSDF’s tactical capabilities, we have deepened interoperability with the U.S. Navy.” said Capt. Fujisaki Masaru, commanding officer of JS Kongo, “I am convinced that we can improve deterrence and interoperability in response to possible contingencies through regular bilateral exercises such as the one we conducted.”
Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the Navy, and as U.S.7th Fleet command ship, is responsible for patrolling and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region. As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward deployed fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates between 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 Sailors. 7th Fleet’s area of operation spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South Pacific, providing security and stability to the region. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security while conducting a wide-range of missions to support humanitarian efforts and uphold international laws and freedoms of the sea.