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…t’s been five years since seven sailors were killed when the US Navy destroyer FITZGERALD collided with a Japanese cargo ship, an incident closely followed by another collision between the US destroyer JOHN S McCAIN and a merchant ship that killed 10 sailors. Major recriminations followed. But has it made any difference? We’ll talk it over with veteran journalist Sam LaGrone of USNI News.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
The Chinese on June 17 christened and launched the largest warship ever built outside the United States. The Type 003 aircraft carrier FUJIAN is the first of a new design that is a great leap in capability over the two smaller carriers already operated by the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Thought to displace over 80,000 tons, the ship will be larger than the French carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE or the British carriers QUEEN ELIZABETH and PRINCE OF WALES. And while still about 20,000 tons smaller than the latest US Navy carriers, the Chinese ship is nearly equal in length – over 1,000 feet – and in beam. Unusually, the Chinese announced the ship’s name and pennant number at launch, a move usually done when a ship is commissioned. We’ll have more on this significant development later on in our discussion.
Two major annual naval exercises wrapped up this week. BALTOPS, the largest NATO Baltic Sea maritime exercise, concluded June 17 at Kiel, Germany. In the Pacific, the US-only exercise Valiant Shield finished up on June 17 after 12 days of joint operations that included the Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln carrier strike groups. The exercise concluded with a SINKEX – Sinking Exercise – of the decommissioned frigate VANDEGRIFT FFG48, an Oliver Hazard Perry frigate that left service in 2015.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS PAUL IGNATIOUS arrived at her new homeport of Rota, Spain June 17 to transfer operations to the US Navy’s Forward-Deployed Naval Forces Europe. Commissioned in 2019, the ship’s arrival is an upgrade for the US ships based in Rota.
In New Ship News – a construction contract for the third Constellation-class frigate was awarded by the US Navy on June 16 to Fincantieri Marinette Marine. The future USS CHESAPEAKE FFG 64 is expected to enter service in 2028, preceded by the CONSTELLATION FFG 62 and CONGRESS FFG 63, already under contract. All the ships will be built at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin.
Christening ceremonies for the destroyer JOHN BASILONE DDG122 are to be held June 18 at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The ship is already in the water, having been launched on June 14. The name honors Medal of Honor Basilone, killed in combat on Iwo Jima during World War II even after being awarded the nation’s highest military honor for his actions in 1942 on Guadalcanal.
You get the Navy you prioritize…we have talked about this idea many times. That was the case five years ago before the collisions that killed 17 Sailors and it remains the case today.
And while the surface community has worked very hard to learn every possible lesson from Fitzgerald and McCain, the Navy as a whole remains fundamentally unchanged.
One need only look at the visible condition of our warships and the recent spate of mishaps and firings to know that something isn’t right with America’s Navy. And while the Navy will tell you publicly that there is no direct correlation between recent events—those that have served in uniform and follow the service closely know differently.
The single most important mission of our Navy is to be a clear and visible sign to friends and foes alike that America is on station, has the watch, is walking the beat. The Navy’s job, more than any other service, is to make the bad guy say “not today…today’s not the day to cause trouble.”
Its no headline to say that our Navy remains undersized and underfunded to carry out this mission…to say nothing of a high end fight. As it continues to shrink in both size and stature I fear the calculus of our enemies will begin to change as they see the visible signs of a force rotting from within.
Where’s the leadership, the strategy, the unifying principle that unites warfare communities, that forces OSD to prioritize Navy funding, that helps Congress help the Navy help themselves?
The hope five years ago was that the deadly collisions and resulting investigations would be a wake-up…something that would shake the Navy and OSD to their core—forcing them to realize that you can only under resource a service and turn a blind eye to warning signs for so long before something catastrophic occurs and the service begins to lose it fighting edge.
Obviously this wasn’t the case. So now what…what will be the event, who will be the person either inside or outside of the service that forces a wake-up…that forces a change in funding and prioritization?
I honestly don’t know…but I hope it comes soon.