CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Jan 29, ’22] Episode 33…”This Business Will Get Out of Control”


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…Navies and militaries around the world are operating at an usually high level, particularly Russia, but also the US, its NATO allies and other partners, and much of it related to the Russian threat of invasion aimed at Ukraine. Is this all just so much movement and motion or is there real purpose behind it? And what are the risks of unintended consequences? We’ll talk about that, as well as what happens when so-called unauthorized imagery appears of military mishaps, and have a look at a major change at the top of the US Navy’s primary shipbuilder.

In this Week’s Squawk  Chris Cavas challenges Congress to do their job and pass a budget.

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

An F-35C Joint Strike Fighter from Strike Fighter Squadron 147 crashed while landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson January 24 in the Philippine Sea. The pilot ejected and was recovered but six sailors on the ship were injured when the aircraft apparently hit the landing area hard and went over the side into the sea. The ship resumed flight operations while an investigation has begun, and the Navy has announced its intention to recover the aircraft – the exact location of the incident has not been released but the average depth of the Philippine Sea is well over 13,000 feet. The Argonauts of VFA-147 are the first squadron to deploy the F-35C variant of the Joint Strike Fighter aboard a carrier.

Two days prior to the landing incident the CARL VINSON took part in a major power demonstration in the Philippine Sea involving five flattops: the VINSON and sistership ABRAHAM LINCOLN, big-deck amphibious ships ESSEX and AMERICA, and Japan’s HYUGA. Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 314 aboard the LINCOLN is the second squadron to deploy with the F-35C joint strike fighter. Along with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 aboard the AMERICA flying short-take off F-35B variants, it marked the first time three ships with regularly deployed F-35 Joint Strike Fighters have operated together. A few days later both carriers moved their operations to the South China Sea.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced January 20 a widespread series of exercises taking place into mid-February in, quote, “all areas of responsibility of all fleets of the Russian Navy.” 140 warships and support ships, more than 60 aircraft, more than 10,000 service members are taking part.

Three of the six Russian amphibious ships coming from northern bases entered the Mediterranean on 27 January twelve days after leaving the Russian naval base of Baltiysk in the Baltic Sea. Russian media reports the ships will conduct exercises in the Mediterranean with a Pacific Fleet cruiser and destroyer who have been deployed over the past month for a series of visits and exercises – those two ships with an oiler visited India and Iran, and exercised with Iranian and Chinese warships. It’s expected all six amphibious ships will continue into the Black Sea to the Russian naval base of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula.

  Meanwhile Russia’s announced intent to hold live-fire naval and air exercises in the North Atlantic southwest of Ireland has prompted a strong reaction in that country as well as significant international interest. Leaders of Ireland’s fishing industry met with the Russian ambassador January 27 and, according to the Russian TASS news agency, the ambassador quote “urged them to refrain from any provocative actions which might endanger all involved.”

The skies have been full of activity as well. Russian media reported January 28 that 51 foreign aircraft – 32 manned aircraft and 19 unmanned UAVs — were detected conducting aerial reconnaissance along the borders of the Russian Federation, and multiple social media sites confirmed similar levels of activity. The newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported that despite all the activity no violations of Russian airspace took place.

 On a more peaceful note, naval units from several nations have been arriving in Tonga to help provide disaster and humanitarian relief after the major volcanic eruption of January 15 disrupted the south Pacific island nation. Naval ships from New Zealand, France and the US, among others, have been providing support. The largest naval supply effort was by Australia’s big assault ship ADELAIDE who, despite a covid outbreak on board ship, managed to dislodge all their cargo on shore without human contact. Tonga has been virtually virus-free throughout the pandemic and the relief efforts, while needed, are also considered something of a health threat.

And in ship construction, Austal USA held a ceremonial keel laying on January 26 for the expeditionary fast transport CODY, hull number EPF 14. The event was preceded on January 17 by the initial steel cutting for the follow-on EPF, POINT LOMA. Both ships are Flight II variants of the US Navy’s Spearhead-class ships, with strengthened flight decks able to handle MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Cavas Squawk:

As if everything we’ve been talking about for the past 20 minutes isn’t enough, earlier this week the Navy held another conference call with reporters to discuss the potential negative impacts if Congress should fail to pass a budget for 2022. Sadly that’s not news – it happens virtually every year, with Congress habitually unable to pass a spending bill before the October 1 beginning of the fiscal year. Instead your public servants on Capitol Hill pass continuing resolutions – CRs in Hillspeak — to keep the money flowing, but at the same rate and for the same things set in the previous budget. Sometimes the CR is for a few days or a few weeks. The current CR – the second of this fiscal year – will keep your government running through February 18, and there is serious talk of making the next CR effective for the rest of the fiscal year, all the way through September 30. And while the Navy and the Pentagon often overstate the negative effects of these continuing resolutions – they have, after all, learned to manage their spending in ways to avoid many of the worst effects – there are areas where they can do only so much. New construction, for example, is a perennial problem — you can’t continue funding a ship this year if it didn’t exist last year, and the service is warning that it won’t be able to buy the new ships and aircraft it needs. The Navy can ask Congress for a special exemption – called an anomaly – but the service chooses to keep those anomaly requests to a bare minimum. In any case it’s a hell of a way to run a government.

Truth is I don’t think many politicians have any idea of the effects of actions such as this outside their Capitol Hill enclave. It’s all politics to them – it’s about deal making and posturing and – more seriously – simply refusing to cooperate with those they don’t agree with. And this CR stuff is a really bad habit – the last time Congress passed all its spending bills on time was back in the last century – 1996.

I truly don’t care which side these obstructionists are on. I just want them to get something done. The truth is the only thing we need these folks to do is pass the 12 separate bills that fund your federal government. That’s it. That’s all they HAVE to do. Everything else is just stuff.

We have so much else to worry about, Congress. Please, just do your job.

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