By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Feddersen
The Blue Ridge-class command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), flag ship of U.S. 6th Fleet, arrived at its forward-deployed port in Gaeta, Italy, Oct. 27, 2017, after completing a 10-month shipyard maintenance evolution at the Viktor Lenac shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia.
During the maintenance availability, shipyard teams completed work on Mount Whitney’s generators, propeller, habitability spaces and command, control, communications, computers, cyber and intelligence systems.
“We had nearly $45 million worth of work on the hull, mechanical and electrical systems of the ship, and a complete upgrade of the computer systems,” said Capt. Kavon Hakimzadeh, commanding officer of Mount Whitney.
One of the major changes on the ship was the computer system upgrade to the new Navy standard, Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services (CANES).
“We installed two new antennas that are more capable and secure and with significantly more bandwidth,” said Hakimzadeh. “The other important thing was the installation of CANES and the computer network onboard.”
The 10-month project, completed by a cooperative group of U.S. Navy, Military Sealift Command civil service mariners, U.S. contractors and local shipyard workers resulted in the complete overhaul of the 47-year-old ship.
“It took us about 10-months, a little bit longer than we anticipated based on finding some additional problems along the way,” Hakimzadeh added. “Given the age of the ship, it wasn’t surprising to find things here and there. It was a highly successful effort by everyone and there was great cooperation with the Viktor Lenac shipyard.”
The return to Gaeta will give Mount Whitney Sailors the opportunity to spend time with family and prepare for their upcoming missions in support of U.S. 6th Fleet.
“It is a great opportunity to get back into homeport after being away for ten months,” said Command Master Chief Andrew Hochgraver. “It is great to be back to spend time with our loved ones before we get back into being heavily operational and contributing to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.”
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of a U.S. flagship being stationed in Gaeta.
“Not only is this a homecoming for our families, but it is also a homecoming for the community of Gaeta,” said Hochgraver.
Mount Whitney, forward-deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners. The civil service mariners perform navigation, deck engineering and supply service operations, while military personnel support communications, weapons systems and security. It is one of only two seaborne Joint Command Platforms in the U.S. Navy, both of which are forward deployed.