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…there are increasing calls for a new approach to naval aviation to enable carrier-based aircraft to strike at greater range with greater lethality. To address these and other issues, analysts Bryan Clark and Timothy Walton in a new report from the Hudson Institute propose new thinking on how to achieve those goals. Bryan Clark will be here to explain their ideas.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
Last week’s unconfirmed reports that the Russian frigate ADMIRAL MAKAROV had been attacked and set on fire appear to have been false. Several observers report the MAKAROV has been seen, undamaged, at the Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. On May 12 the Ukrainian government claimed the Ukrainian Navy attacked and damaged the Russian Navy logistics support vessel VSEVOLOD BOBROV, a new ship completed only last year. The BOBROV appears, however, to have reached Sevastopol in a damaged state.
The littoral combat ship SIOUX CITY arrived at Rota, Spain on May 13, completing the first trans-Atlantic crossing of a littoral combat ship. The Freedom-class SIOUX CITY will operate with the Sixth Fleet and US European Command before moving on to the Persian Gulf in US Central Command. US officials have not said how long the deployment is to last. And in the Pacific, the deployed littoral combat ship CHARLESTON arrived at Sasebo on May 10 for a port visit, the first visit of an Independence-class ship to Japan. The San Diego-based ship has been on an independent Western Pacific deployment since April 2021. Two other Independence-class ships, the JACKSON and TULSA, also remain deployed in the Western Pacific.
The US cruiser PORT ROYAL made a Taiwan Strait transit on May 10, cruising the strait between mainland China and Taiwan. It was the second such US Navy transit in three weeks and the fourth this year, keeping up a roughly once-a-month drumbeat going back to 2018. By contrast, the US has scaled back its freedom-of-navigation, or FONOPS, passages in the South China Sea near areas that China claims as its territory. The US Navy carried out 9 South China Sea FONOPs passages in 2020, four in 2021, and only one this year, and that one back in January.
In ship news, the new destroyer FRANK E. PETERSON JR DDG121 will be commissioned at Charleston, South Carolina on May 14. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will be homeported in Pearl Harbor. And at Saint Petersburg, Florida, the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter PABLO VALENT WPC1148 was commissioned on May 11. The 48th FRC will be homeported at Saint Petersburg on Florida’s Gulf coast.
And Admiral Linda Fagan was confirmed by the US Senate May 12 to become the US Coast Guard’s 27th commandant – the first woman to serve in the Coast Guard’s top post. Fagan will relieve outgoing commandant Admiral Karl Schulz.
I watched and listened this past week to two Navy posture hearings, those annual affairs where top service leaders appear before Congress to defend the newly-presented annual budget request. I didn’t notice too many Senators and Representatives who seemed very impressed by the Navy’s testimony. Many of them asked a question or two or referred to an issue – quite often something representative of their district – and let their allotted time run out. Why? Don’t they care?
Actually, many congresscritters – sorry, I sorta like that all-encompassing term – do care. But they don’t have much time to do so. Dozens of issues pass in front of them every week, if not every day. Time is precious for even the best of them. The trick in presenting your issue is to have a concise, easy-to-understand message that conveys in a short time the essence of an argument or position.
It’s a trick every single member of Congress understands. Heck, every single politician understands it, all the way back to the days of Ancient Greece. All of these people – Republicans and Democrats, moss-covered veterans and newbies, Trumpers and Progressives, oft-overlooked moderates – share one absolute trait. They understand messaging. They can tell when someone has something to say – and just as quickly they can realize someone has nothing to say, or nothing new to say, or doesn’t even know what they want to say.
I’m going to read something the Navy put out a few days ago. It is a photo caption describing sailors on an aircraft carrier practicing the rigging of a crash barrier – an evolution that sailors aboard every single aircraft carrier that has gone to sea over the past century is familiar with. Fairly simple stuff, right? Here’s how the Navy captioned that photo:
“US Navy sailors assigned to the USS Nimitz conduct drills on the flight deck for a multi-phase training evolution designed to give the crew a solid foundation of unit-level operating proficiency and enhance the ship’s ability to self-train.”
Uh…what? WTF is that?
That, friends, is the sound of an organization that has no idea – NO IDEA – how to communicate. Not with Congress, not with the public, not to the world, and most certainly not to itself.
It’s no wonder that one of the primary messages in recent years directed to the Navy from Capitol Hill is – what do you guys do? Why do you do it? What’s your point? What do you need to do it?
The past week’s testimony did not show that top Navy leaders are getting much better at answering those very fundamental questions. To put it into language the Navy might understand, “Top representatives continue searching for multi-phase evolutions that could enhance their ability to gain communications proficiency and indicate a capacity for self-training.”
We’re all still waiting.