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…we have a very special guest this week – former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The longest-serving SECNAV ever will weigh in on several topics.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
As we record this podcast, there are unconfirmed reports that the Russian frigate ADMIRAL MAKAROV has been hit by a Ukrainian attack and is burning in the Black Sea near Sevastopol. If confirmed, this could be even more significant than the attack in April on the cruiser MOSKVA. ADMIRAL MAKAROV is one of the newest and most modern ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, having been in service only since 2017.
Meanwhile, conflicting reports about US assistance to Ukraine in the April 13 attack on the MOSKVA, hit by two shore-launched Ukrainian Neptune cruise missiles. Several news outlets report that targeting intelligence was provided to Ukraine from aa US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft known to have been in the vicinity; the Pentagon has vigorously denied active participation in the attack. On May 6 Pentagon spokesman John Kirby repeated earlier statements that the US, quote, provides useful, relevant intelligence so [the Ukrainians] can better defend themselves. They are under no obligation to tell us how they intend to use that intelligence,” Kirby said.
Ukraine also claimed its forces sank two Russian Navy Raptor-class patrol boats on May 2 near Snake Island. Ukraine claimed the attack was carried out by Turkish-built TB2 Bayraktar aerial drones. The Bayraktars have been used at sea for surveillance and targeting missions, but this is the first known instance of a Ukrainian unmanned aircraft attacking ships at sea. Bayraktars have, however, been used against moving land targets.
On May 5 the US Navy announced the littoral combat ship SIOUX CITY has begun the first-ever LCS deployment to the US Sixth Fleet in Europe. The cruise has been years in the planning, hampered by a lack of confidence in the combining gears of Freedom-class ships. The Navy is reluctant to release many details of the deployment, but after some time operating in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea the SIOUX CITY is expected to push through the Suez Canal and enter the Persian Gulf, where LCS support facilities have been built at the US base in Manama, Bahrain.
In the Pacific, the deployed littoral combat ship JACKSON arrived at Singapore’s Changi naval base on May 2, marking a return to Singapore as a forward base and maintenance site. After the pandemic hit in 2020 deployed LCSs conducted their regular maintenance periods at Guam which, although a US territory, is considerably further from the intended western Pacific operating area of US Navy LCSs.
And in Marinette, Wisconsin, the Freedom-class littoral combat ship BELOIT LCS-29 is to be christened and launched May 7, even as the Navy seeks to decommission earlier ships in the class. Construction of the Beloit was ordered from Lockheed Martin in September 2018. The BELOIT is the next-to-last Freedom class ship building at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, the very last Lockheed LCS is the future USS CLEVELAND, LCS-31.
And in the Pacific, the Chinese aircraft carrier LIAONING is underway in the Pacific Ocean SSE of Okinawa. Four destroyers are accompanying the carrier, including the Type 055 Renhai-class NANCHANG. The task group has been closely monitored by Japanese self-defense force ships and aircraft.
With this week’s leak that the Supreme Court intends to overturn the ruling on Roe v Wade American politics has been changed for the foreseeable future. The decision to overturn the 1973 case would be unfortunate on many levels, but one that may not be obvious is the affect it will have on the country’s political attention span.
Campaign discussions and debates on defense and diplomacy have become less and less the norm in recent years—now they will likely take an even further back seat to domestic politics and vitriol.
The abortion issue will dominate news coverage, campaign fund raising and national debates—making conversations about international order and protecting the American way of life harder to break through while becoming seemingly less relevant to the electorate. The Supreme Court’s draft decision reduces our national decision space to a pinhole, and our future capacity to come together towards any further national goals become minimized.
From the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, we should learn a needed lesson of whole of government coherency, one we haven’t thought of in decades–the confluence of financial, technological, supply, and military power. The decisions of strategy, force structure, budget, and people are once again existential decisions that a distanced leadership in Moscow is just now grappling with and attempting to absolve and mitigate after the fact.
Because of an already crowded media space and limited national attention span, making the case for a more capable future force was going to be tall order, now I fear it has become herculean. This doesn’t mean that we or our audience should give up–but it is important to understand the new political environment and the very real challenges we face.
Quite simply, explaining Blue and Gold will be even harder as people focus more and more on Red and Blue.