The crew of U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) held live-fire exercises designed to test the crew’s defensive abilities in order to complete the Air/Surface Warfare Live Fire Certification Exercise (AW/SW CERTEX) while transiting off the coast of Japan, July 14.
The 7th Fleet flagship fired 4,420 rounds of ammunition and accurately and swiftly tracked and destroyed airborne and surface targets with her Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), MK-38 25mm cannons, and .50 caliber and M-240 machine guns.
Blue Ridge’s primary operational mission revolves around its fleet-wide communication capabilities, but she must be capable of self-defense and providing credible fire power whenever required.
“My Sailors have been preparing for this certification for the last four months,” said weapons officer Lt. Linzy Lewis. “We coordinated air services with our base in Hawaii, onloaded ammunition and practiced tracking our MH-60S Seahawk helicopters to get prepared.”
The CIWS, pronounced ‘sea whiz’, is Blue Ridge’s primary defense against aerial attack and requires constant maintenance and fine-tuning.
To certify proficiency with MK-38 25mm cannons, and .50 caliber and M-240 machine guns, the ship deployed large red inflatable targets, called “killer tomatoes,” in her wake. The targets were used to simulate small boat attacks, and were swiftly eliminated by Blue Ridge’s gunfire.
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flag ship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships and presence in the 7th Fleet area of operations.