The Blue Ridge-class command ship group was formed during the Cold War in the late 1960s and went on to include USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20). Still in service today, the class has been continuously outfitted with the latest in Command and Control (CC2) systems as well as secured intelligence-gathering and communications systems, making them the primary post for commanders during naval-related operations (both in peacetime and wartime).
USS Mount Whitney was ordered on August 10th, 1966 and saw her keel laid down on January 8th, 1969. She was launched on January 8th, 1970 and formally commissioned on January 16th, 1971. With her commitment to NATO operations in and around Europe, she makes her homeport in Gaeta, Italy and continues in active service today (2017). USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) is stationed at Yokosuka, Japan.
Mount Whitney displaces 18,400 tons under load and holds an overall length of 620 feet, a beam of 108 feet and a draught down to 29.7 feet. Her propulsion scheme is conventional, fed by two boilers supplying a single geared turbine driving a single shaft. The onboard complement is 170 made up of officers and enlisted crew while a further 155 are formed from civilian sailors from Military Sealift Command. Up to 930 total personnel can be carried.
Armament is purely self-defensive in nature and led by 2 x 25mm Bushmaster automatic cannons. This is backed by 2 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs). For extreme close-in defense, the vessel carried up to 4 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns. Mark 36 SRBOC ("Super-Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures and decoy-launching system") units serve to launch rocketed chaff in an effort to confuse incoming enemy missiles.
The warship's profile is unique as the deck line is unbroken for the length of the ship (bow to stern). At midships is the bridge superstructure containing the exposed mast works as well as the radar and communications fits. Over near-stern is a secondary, slab-sided mast structure capped by a dome. Over the stern proper is a landing zone for a single medium-lift navy helicopter - the standard today (2017) being a Sikorsky MH-60S Knight Hawk (detailed elsewhere on this site).
To date, USS Mount Whitney has participated in several high profile operations: the Haiti intervention of 1994-1995 through 'Operation Uphold Democracy', the invasion of Afghanistan (beginning November 2002) with Central Command as part of the 'War on Terror', humanitarian support during the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, and UN support concerning the Civil War in Libya. In February of 2013, she entered a period of overhauling and returned to service that April. In 2014, she formed part of the American security arm at the Sochi Olympics hosted by Russia.