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…it takes a lot of people to build a ship, and even more to build a giant warship, where thousands of shipbuilders each play a role. Author Mike Fabey spent quality time with some of the people building the world’s largest warship, the aircraft carrier JOHN F. KENNEDY CVN79, and talks about what it takes to do the job.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
China is preparing to launch the new Type 003 aircraft carrier under construction at the huge Jiangnan Shipyard on Changxing Island near Shanghai. The launch was widely expected to have been scheduled for June 3, but an online notice posted June 2 by the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration indicates the floatoff has been delayed until June 30. The ship is estimated to be over a thousand feet long with an extreme beam of about 246 feet – roughly similar to US Nimitz-class carriers, although at about 85,000 tons full load displacement the Chinese ship would be a bit smaller. Like the US Ford-class carriers the ship will have electromagnetic catapults but will not be powered by nuclear reactors; rather the ship is expected to be driven by an all-gas turbine power plant.
In Russia, a photo was published May 31 showing the Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier, ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV, in a new, large drydock in Murmansk. The ship was taken out of service in 2017 for a major overhaul but was severely damaged in October 2018 when the floating drydock holding the ship sank, damaging the carrier. Drydocking work was postponed as there was no other dock in Russia that could take the ship, and the KUZNETSOV was damaged again when fires broke out in December 2019. An entirely new drydock had to be built in Murmansk so that the overhaul could be finished. Russian officials have said the ship is to be returned to service in 2023 but even that might be over-optimistic.
Israeli media reported June 2 that an Israeli Navy Dolphin-class submarine and the missile corvettes EILAT and HETZ operated in the Red Sea during May as part of the larger Chariots of Fire exercise by the Israeli Defense Forces. The deployment was characterized by The Jerusalem Post as a direct message to Iran. The Israeli Navy did not comment on the cruise until after the ships returned to the Israeli naval base at Eilat.
The USS SIOUX CITY passed southbound through the Suez Canal on May 28 and into the Red Sea, becoming the first littoral combat ship to enter US Central Command’s operating area. SIOUX CITY was in port at the Saudi naval base at Jeddah by June 1. The LCS is expected to continue on in June to the Persian Gulf, where support facilities have been built at US Naval Support Activity Manama, Bahrain.
In Washington on June 1 Admiral Linda Fagan relieved retiring Admiral Karl Schultz to become the 27th commandant of the US Coast Guard. Fagan, a 1985 graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy, is also the first woman to lead a US military service. Following tradition, Fagan wore shoulder boards passed down from a senior officer – in her case, those of Admiral Owen Siler, the service’s 15th commandant, who in 1975 opened the Coast Guard Academy’s doors to women. Retiring commandant Schultz led the Coast Guard for four years beginning in June 2018.
And in old ship news, the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK CV63 arrived at Brownsville, Texas on May 31, ending a four-and-a-half-month voyage under tow from Bremerton, Washington. Commissioned in 1961, The Hawk served nearly 48 years before being decommissioned in 2009 and entering the reserve fleet. She’ll be scrapped by International Shipbreaking Ltd., where the assault ship BONHOMME RICHARD, decommissioned in 2020 after a major fire in San Diego, is also rapidly being recycled. Anticipating the KITTY HAWK’s last port of call, a large crowd gathered at the entrance to the Brownsville Ship Channel to watch, cheer and wax nostalgic as the great ship passed one last time.
Our audience, probably better than most, understands that ships are special. That serving on a ship is different from checking out a piece of gear from the motor pool or armory…or even the hangar and flight line.
A ship is where you live, where you work, where you eat and sleep…it’s your home.
Like with most places you call home, you build an emotional connection…sometimes it’s a love, sometimes a hate…sometimes it’s a bit of both.
USS Harry S Truman was my home for 3 years and I still perk up and get excited when I see images or hear stories about CVN-75… the very same way I do when someone says Hollywood, MD, my boyhood home or Palm Coast, Florida…where my family lives today.
Even now I look at the Truman picture hanging next to my desk and I beam with pride.
It’s for this reason that I have great respect for the men and women who build and maintain our nation’s warships.
It’s their hard work that brings our homes away from home alive and keeps them in fighting shape.
It’s their hard work that helps spread and maintain freedom around the globe…and its their blood and sweat that helps keep Sailors safe when they sail those ships into harms way.
We remain a power of the sea because of their skill and we need to recognize and protect this important industry that has helped keep America prosperous and free since its founding more than two centuries ago.
For years people thanked me for my service in uniform…I’d like to end this squawk by saying thank you to the thousands of shipbuilders across the country. Your skill and hard work does not go unnoticed and it is very much appreciated.