US Seventh Fleet flagship Blue Ridge on a visit to Colombo
[TamilNet, Sunday, 20 February 2005, 08:06 GMT]
Barely a few hours before the grand and maiden arrival of the US former Presidents, Bill Clinton and H.W. Bush to Sri Lanka, the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, USS Blue Ridge, arrived in Colombo harbour this morning on what is described as "a brief goodwill visit". According to a press release from the US embassy, USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), which was commissioned on November 14, 1970, at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as the most sophisticated command and control platform in the Navy, has been forward deployed from Yokosuka, Japan as the flagship of Commander Seventh Fleet since October 1979.
USS Blue Ridge (Library Photo from US Navy Naval Media Center Website)
"With accommodations for more than 200 officers and 1200 enlisted, the ship provides all the services of a small town. From 1971 until 1979, Blue Ridge operated from San Diego, California, where she deployed to the Western Pacific, earning the Meritorious Unit and Navy Unit Commendations for the evacuation of Saigon, Vietnam in 1975," the press release said.
Well suited to support a fleet commander in peacetime and in war, Blue Ridge has taken part routinely in US and allied training exercise each year with countries throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
"She performed brilliantly during a nine-and-one-half month deployment as flagship for Commander United States Naval Forces Central Command during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 through May 1991, for which the ship earned another Navy Unit Commendation. The USS Blue Ridge frequently makes port calls throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean
Areas," the statement said.
The statement also said that the visit of the Blue Ridge came as a precursor to the arrival of the former US Coast Guard Cutter 'Courageous', purchased by the Sri Lankan Navy and refurbished in the United States.
"The Courageous set sail from Norfolk Harbor in Virginia this month following an extensive refurbishment program, and will add valuable deep-water surveillance and interdiction capability to the Sri Lanka Navy," the statement said.
The military co-operation between Sri Lanka and the US has improved tremendously in terms of training the service personnel, military advice and procurement of military hardware.
Following the tsunami disaster, the Bush administration dispatched over 1500 US Marines along with Hawk helicopters, hovercrafts and other related logistics to help clearing the debris and distributing the urgent relief assistance.
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