The USS Blue Ridge, currently docked at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, has just lit its boilers late this May 2018, for the first time in over two years, which is a big step towards bringing the ship, the US Navy’s oldest deployable warship, back into operational condition.
Steam plumed from the 7th Fleet’s flagship, following boiler repairs, and the sailors on the ship, who watched the ship undergo repairs, refurbishing and upgrades since June of 2016, expressed excitement and satisfaction.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Raymond Davis III, one of the machinists working on the Blue Ridge, says that he saw the engine room when it was still steaming. He describes the time, which was when it was docked and stripped apart in preparation for repair work. He says that lighting off the boilers, after all the time working on it, is one of the feelings he’s ever experienced.
The Blue Ridge, originally commissioned on Nov. 14, 1970, has spent 38 years docked in Yokosuka, Japan, and it is scheduled to stay in service for at least two more decades.
According to the Navy, with the boilers igniting following boiler repairs, the Blue Ridge can operate in its own power, meaning its closer to finally being fully operational, and heading out for sea to support the 7th Fleet.
The warship’s maintenance period was initially expected to take about 14 months, but issues arose with the engineering plant for the ship, extending the repairs and increasing costs, resulting in a total of 135,000 man hours, over 24 months, and at least $60 million spent. Part of the upgrades include modernization of the engineering plant, as well as refurbishing the main condenser and ventilation system, among other things.
The increased repair time for the ship brought its own challenges, with a massive crew turnover rate, and 80% of the Blue Ridge’s engineers came straight from boot camp or from non-engineering assignments, thanks to the ship’s restricted availability status.
Commanding Officer Capt. Brett Crozier, says that lighting the boilers is a big milestone after all those repairs. He says that lighting the boilers is a reflection of all the time and effort put into repairing the ship, and it’s also, metaphorically speaking, the first pitch for game time; getting the ship back onto the sea.