CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Sep 12, 21] Episode 14…The Blue Age


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.

The world’s prosperity of the past 75 years is largely due to the US Navy’s success in keeping the oceans safe for commerce, argues the author of a new book. But he also warns of the dangers the service faces in continuing its dominance and what that could mean for global security. We talk with Gregg Easterbrook, author of The Blue Age.

In this Week’s Squawk Chris Cavas comments on the twentieth anniversary of 9-11.

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

The Navy on September 4 declared dead the five missing crew members from a helicopter crash on August 31 aboard the carrier ABRAHAM LINCOLN off the southern California coast. The MH-60 Sierra helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Eight went over the side while attempting to land aboard the carrier. The Navy has released few details of the accident.

The Norwegian frigate FRIDTJOF NANSEN arrived at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia September 5 to begin training operations with Carrier Strike Group Eight and the USS HARRY S TRUMAN. The NANSEN is the lead ship of Norway’s four-ship class of Aegis frigates. TRUMAN completed a nearly year-long overhaul in mid-summer and is in the early stages of pre-deployment training.

The British patrol ships TAMAR and SPEY left Portsmouth, England Sept. 7 headed for the Indo-Pacific region, where they will operate for the next five years. The ships will have no permanent base, the Royal Navy said in a press statement, but will range from east Africa to the western USA, the Bering Sea to New Zealand and act as the eyes and ears of the Navy and the Nation in the region.

Staying with the British Royal Navy, the decommissioned Type 23 frigate HMS MONMOUTH was towed from the Devonport Naval Base on Sept. 10, apparently bound for a scrapyard. The UK Integrated Review & Defence Command Paper of March 2021 announced that MONMOUTH and sistership MONTROSE would be disposed of as part of the Royal Navy’s reinvestment in new Type 26 and Type 31 frigates, although those remain several years away from entering service.

The US destroyer BENFOLD carried out a FONOPS Freedom of Navigation passage in the Spratly Islands on Sept. 8, passing within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, where China has created an artificial island base. China claimed its forces expelled the BENFOLD from what it claims are territorial waters. It was the fourth South China Sea FONOPS carried out this year by US Navy destroyers.

A new US Navy task force was officially established on September 9 to oversee the integration of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence techniques. Part of the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain on the Persian Gulf, the first-of-its-kind Task Force 59 is intended to use existing and developing systems to develop operational concepts not only with US ships but with the military forces of numerous allied nations in the region.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held Sept. 8 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine for an expanded drydock to work on nuclear-powered attack submarines. The $1.7 billion, seven-year project will expand a World War II-era drydock to be able to hold as many as three Virginia- or Los Angeles-class submarines at once. The effort is part of a major focus to rebuild, upgrade and expand the capabilities of the four Navy-owned shipyards, of which Portsmouth is the smallest.

USNI News on September 9 reported the LYNDON B JOHNSON, third and last ship of the DDG-1000 ZUMWALT Class of big stealth destroyers, will be completed at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi and not at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine which built the ship. The first two ships in the class, ZUMWALT and MICHAEL MONSOOR, completed their combat systems installation at San Diego, but the Navy in early 2020 declared the LBJ would not have a split-delivery between combat systems and hull, machinery and electrical systems. The decision to complete LBJ in Mississippi was apparently taken earlier this year but has not been publicized.

This Week’s Squawk by Chris Cavas:

Everyone listening is well aware it’s been 20 years since the events of September 11, 2001. I have just a couple quick thoughts.

That morning I was at work at Navy Times where I was an editor. Reporter Mark Faram was right next door to the Pentagon at the Navy Annex, headquarters of Navy Personnel Command, waiting in his car before going in for an interview. My phone rang, it was Mark. “There’s been an explosion at the Pentagon.” I said, “do you have a camera?” “Uh, no. Wait, I’ve got the digital in the trunk.” “Grab it and run,” I said. Mark said yeah and we hung up. It was perhaps the most succinct phone conversation of my career in journalism.

Understand that Mark is probably the finest natural photographer I’ve ever known. He was also a journalist first class in the Navy Reserve. He grabbed the camera, ran up a short hill and crossed a highway just as people were beginning to come out of the burning Pentagon. Survivors were dazed and confused and trying to gather themselves amidst the destruction of American Flight 77 hitting the building. Mark captured it all, and with our blessing shared all his photography with the Navy and the Department of Defense. Many of the most striking photos put up by DoD were taken by JO1 Mark Faram.

Later on that day I went outside for a smoke break. The normally busy skies around Washington were clear of commercial aircraft. No one was sure what was going on, what would be coming next. Then the sound of aircraft, but not of airliners. I looked up and saw two Air Force F-16 fighters overhead, circling the capital. Allright, I thought, we have a CAP, a combat air patrol. It may sound corny, but I was truly comforted by the sight of those fighters up there protecting us.

And that’s what everyone in the military does – they protect us. There are truly bad people out in the world who wish us harm, and those in uniform and all who support them work every minute to keep those bad people at bay. I never forget that.

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