Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello…a weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world.
This week…a great naval aviator met an untimely end earlier this week. we’ll be talking with a special guest who knew and flew with Dale “Snort” Snodgrass. We also preview the Navy League’s Sea, Air and Space trade show – the first major American live naval event since March 2020.
In this Week’s Squawk Chris Servello talks about the need for a more complete maritime discussion.
This Week’s Naval Round Up:
The US Navy said July 29 that a crewmember of the amphibious assault ship BONHOMME RICHARD has been accused of starting the fire that eventually consumed much of the ship in July 2020. San Diego-based US Third Fleet did not name the sailor, but media reports said he was the same crewmember questioned last August about his actions on the morning of the fire. A Third Fleet spokesman said in a statement that court martial charges against the sailor are being considered and that an impartial hearing officer will determine further trial proceedings. Separate from the sailor’s accused arson, the Navy has not said how the fire started nor released its report on the mistakes that led to the ship burning for four and half days on the waterfront of the San Diego Naval Base.
The cruise of the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH Carrier Strike Group 21 rounded past Singapore and entered the South China Sea on July 25. QUEEN LIZ is expected to operate about two months in the western Pacific and conduct exercises with a number of friendly nations even as the presence of the task force is being closely covered by Chinese media. One Chinese editorial under the headline, “UK shouldn’t tempt own fate in South China Sea” warned the British not to sail too closely to what it called “China’s red lines,” saying if they did so they would become an example where China would “execute one as a warning to a hundred.” Meanwhile, Covid continues to affect the cruise, and a major defense conference scheduled to be held aboard the QUEEN ELIZABETH while in Korean waters has been rescheduled for October in the United Kingdom aboard sistership PRINCE OF WALES.
The Chinese government also reacted strongly to the passage on July 28 of the US destroyer BENFOLD through the Taiwan Strait – a move the US Navy has been making roughly once a month for the past two years. China notes its naval and air forces tracked the BENFOLD through its entire transit of the waterway between Taiwan and mainland China – also a regular occurence.
On July 24 the US Navy and the Missile Defense Agency carried out a complex exercise near Hawaii using the Aegis weapon system and four Standard SM-6 Dual II missiles aboard the destroyer Ralph Johnson to attempt to intercept two Short Range Ballistic Missile Targets. One of the targets was destroyed while the other interception failed. It was the most complex test yet executed by the Missile Defense Agency. The SM-6 is used by surface ships against air targets including aircraft and missiles and it can attack surface targets including ships. The most recent exercise was the third test of the SM-6 in the ballistic missile defense role, where it can attack short-to-medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase.
On July 28 US Coast Guard commandant Admiral Karl Schultz presided over a rare triple-ship commissioning ceremony. The Fast Response Cutters MYRTLE HAZARD, OLIVER HENRY and FREDERICK HATCH were simultaneously commissioned at Santa Rita, Guam where they will be permanently based in the Western Pacific.
In San Diego, USS INDEPENDENCE, the first of the LCS2 Independence-class frigates, was decommissioned on July 29. In service for about 11 and a half years, the ship spent most of her time performing developmental testing. She becomes the first littoral combat ship to leave service, even though they were projected to last at least two decades. The ship will enter the reserve fleet in Bremerton, Washington.
Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 continued off the east coast of Australia. More than 17,000 military personnel from seven different nations are taking part, including warships from Australia, the US, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The exercises continue into mid-August.
SQUAWK BOX – Chris Servello
Hopefully many of you listening to this podcast will have occasion to attend or follow our coverage of the Navy League’s Sea Air and Space exposition next week at National Harbor, Maryland. As we’ve mentioned it will be great to see and catch-up with professional colleagues…see some of the latest technology… and hear from Navy and industry leaders.
That said…if the agenda and comments from the Navy League’s prequel that ran in July are indications there will be one notable absence from next week’s festivities…that is a serious discussion about Seapower…and what it means in 2021.
In recent discussions and readings it has become more and more obvious that DoD, Congress and the White House have very different approaches and visions for American Seapower…some may even argue that no such vision or appreciation exists.
Without that context, discussions about fleet architecture, maintenance, new technology and buzz phrases like ‘divest to invest’ are incongruent and illogical…and honestly a waste of time.
Key gaps are missing from our national maritime discussion..and as such, tactical conversations mean nothing because they lack a common framework for how national leaders want to use the sea services to achieve political and economic ends.
I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer or a constant complainer…I am genuinely looking forward to next week’s festivities, but I am also looking forward to a time when events like Sea Air & Space educate and challenge the audience to think differently about how we act as a maritime nation.
So as I attend panels, walk around the exhibit floor and meet with colleagues, I will be thinking about what I’m not hearing as much as what people are actually saying.
I would encourage you to do the same.