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…The Navy’s announced it had settled on an engineering fix for the long-standing problems with the Freedom-class littoral combat ships. We’ll talk about some of the things the Navy said about the situation and the future outlook for the ships. And a noted naval analyst takes a look at Navy carrier aviation’s lack of long legs.
In this Week’s Squawk Chris Cavas discusses making the most of speaking opportunities.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
An F-35B Joint Strike Fighter belonging to the British Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron crashed at sea November 17 while operating from the aircraft carrier HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The single pilot aboard ejected and was safely recovered. The plane was one of 8 British F-35Bs flying from the QUEEN ELIZABETH, where the air group also includes ten US Marine F-35s. The F-35 is one of 24 currently being operated by the United Kingdom. Efforts to recover the aircraft already are underway, with media reports indicating some U.S. Navy equipment based at Rota, Spain may be employed. QUEEN ELIZABETH had just entered the Mediterranean on the home leg of a six-month deployment to the western Pacific that began in May.
Polaris 21, the largest naval exercise ever sponsored by the French Navy, began November 18 in the western Mediterranean Sea and will run through December 3. Half the French Navy is taking part in the exercise that focuses on high-intensity combat. The French carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE is at the center of one of two opposing groups, which include warships and aircraft from 6 nations – 24 ships, including the US destroyer PORTER and British destroyer DRAGON – along with 65 aircraft. Other participating nations include Greece, Italy and Spain.
The Russian frigate ADMIRAL GORSHKOV conducted another test of the Tsirkon hypersonic missile on November 17, destroying a naval target in the White Sea with a direct hit, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. The latest test follows a July firing by the GORSHKOV of a Tsirkon that hit its target at a range of about 220 miles after hitting a speed of Mach 7, nearly 5,400 miles per hour. Range and speed information were not provided in the latest test. It will be at least four years before a US Navy ship deploys with a hypersonic missile.
The new Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker SIBIR began initial sea trials on November 16. The 33,000-ton, Project 22220 ship is the first of at least two new civilian operated icebreakers powered by a two-reactor plant intended to allow year-round navigation in the western region of Russia’s vast Arctic Ocean coast.
And on November 17 US chief of naval operations Admiral Mike Gilday revealed he had approved a fix for the long-troubled combining gear installed in Freedom-class littoral combat ships. The combining gear, essentially a clutch that combines the power of the LCSs’ diesel and gas turbine engines, is notorious for reliability issues and has caused the ships to operate under restricted conditions. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin and its subcontractor, the German firm Renk AG, developed new parts that were installed on the LCS MINNEAPOLIS-SAINT PAUL, which ran a series of sea trials to prove out the fixes. After reviewing the results CNO Gilday approved the fixes and the Navy accepted delivery of the MINNEAPOLIS-SAINT PAUL on November 18 – some 15 months after the ship first ran acceptance trials on Lake Michigan.
In a subsequent press briefing on November 18, Rear Admiral Casey Moton, Program Executive Officer for the Naval Sea Systems Command that oversees the LCS program, said the MINNEAPOLIS SAINT PAUL would remain on the Great Lakes through the winter before being commissioned in 2022. The fixes will be installed on the five other Freedom-class LCSs still building at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, but decisions on whether the fix would be back-fitted on the eight other ships still in service had yet to be made. Meanwhile, the MARINETTE LCS25 is ready for christening and launch at Fincantieri on November 20.
SQUAWK BOX – CAVAS
When professionals attend professional conferences they are often attracted to the event by the quality of the speakers who will be there. It’s not the only attraction of course – the opportunity to network and catch up with others with similar interests and experiences is very valuable – but many of those in attendance justify the time and expense based on those who will address the conference.
But often – all too often – those speakers do not deliver anything of quality to their eager audiences. I remember being at an event in the mid-2000s, in a room full of military uniforms adorned with multiple combat decorations – listening to speakers revert to bland addresses full of generalities and uncontroversial slogans to kill off 45 minutes of the attendees’ time. There was nothing in that address of the slightest use to these military pros. The question and answer session was likewise punctuated by serious questions and dodge-‘em, indirect answers that not-too-deftly sidestepped the question.
The condescension and patronization of that address was not unique. I’ve been to dozens of events where the same thing happens, over and over. Audiences are excited at the chance to see and hear a particular speaker, and then tasked with sitting politely while that speaker discusses a more-than-two-decades old magazine article, repeats — sometime with verbatim — a bland or searingly familiar speech by someone else or – and this is always a key that if you have anything else to do with your time now is your chance to leave the room – discusses their organizational chart.
Another frequent dodge is the “I can’t speak about that in an unclassified forum” line. What a cop-out! Here’s the problem with that – the speaker was invited to speak at an unclassified event. The speaker accepted. It is incumbent upon that speaker to find a way to convey a meaningful and substantive message in an unclassified setting. If the speaker is not up to that task – don’t accept. Don’t waste everyone’s time. Don’t mislead people into thinking you might offer something of use. Save it for your classified sessions, but don’t bring that excuse. If you can’t do better, than don’t do it at all.