The US Navy’s (USN’s) Blue Ridge-class command ship and 6th Fleet flagship USS Mount Whitney has returned to support NATO’s ‘BALTOPS’ exercise with improved capacity, as the ship continues a three-stage overhaul and upgrade process.
In particular, installation of the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) computer network saw the ship able to more effectively support embarked staff from 6th Fleet and Striking and Support Forces NATO (SFN) during ‘BALTOPS’, which ran from 1 to 15 June in the Baltic Sea. Both staffs “were operating at the same time without loss of fidelity to either network,” Mount Whitney’s commanding officer (CO), Captain Robert Aguilar, told Jane’s .
Mount Whitney and sister ship USS Blue Ridge have undergone service life extension programmes designed to keep the ships at sea until 2039. The improvement programme includes communications and sensor systems; electrical generation and distribution; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); habitability; and general ship maintenance.
In October 2017, Mount Whitney completed a 10-month overhaul period, its second work phase. The ship is expected to start phase three in late 2019. Briefing media onboard the ship during ‘BALTOPS’, Capt Aguilar said the final phase “will see modernisation of the bridge, some of our radar suite, and some of our bridge management resources, as well as continuing basic ship maintenance”. While final details are being confirmed, a key focus will be on boosting the ship’s situational awareness.
Significant improvements carried out during phase two included the installation of CANES, which “basically allows for plug-and-play with other systems”, Capt Aguilar said. “CANES takes all that data, and it can separate each network and isolate it from the others. So, my secret, my unclass, [my] NATO secret, they’re all effectively running on the same system, but they’re isolated from each other.”
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