MANILA VISIT. USS Blue Ridge stops by off the coast of Manila on Wednesday, March 13. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – USS Blue Ridge, the United States Navy’s most advanced commanding ship is in the Philippines for a port visit, arriving off the coast of capital Manila on Wednesday, March 13.

The USS Blue Ridge is the flagship of the US Navy’s 7th fleet, which patrols the Indian and the Pacific Ocean in Asia. As a commanding ship, it is meant to be a base, not a combat vessel, just in case a maritime conflict explodes in the region.

“Blue Ridge is a literal command and control ship. Our mission is to provide the commander of 7th fleet Vice Admiral Sawyer a command and control platform from which we can take care of all the forces in the 7th fleet, whether it is carriers, cruisers, or anybody else,” said Captain Eric Anduze, the commanding officer of the ship.

He added: “We provide the network, the computer systems, and the data that he needs in order to get the mission done. So, We’re his home base if you will.”

The USS Blue Ridge is 194 meters long and 33 meters wide. It carries over 1,000 sailors. Of them, 150 are Filipino-Americans who, according to Anduze, are excited to drop by their home on the other side of the world.

Despite being smaller compared to aircraft carriers that have recently visited the Philippines, the technology it uses cannot be underestimated. It has the most advanced communication equipment in the US Navy after a 2-year break for repairs and revamps.

“The interesting thing about Blue Ridge is we can do our mission whether we’re at pier’s side or at sea. So depending on the threat, we would go underway or we could do it at Yokosuka. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world. We can command and control,” Anduze said.

The USS Blue Ridge will stay in the Philippines for talks with national security officials and the top brass of the Philippine Navy.

Anduze declined to comment on the current security situation in light of China’s expansive claims, but he assured the public that they will continue to promote “freedom of navigation” in the region.