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…Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday’s updated Navigation Plan for the Navy was released on July 26 complete with a new fleet vision for 2045. Navalist and friend of the pod Bryan McGrath joins us to review the plan.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday on July 26 released a revised version of his Navigation Plan for the Navy, updating an earlier document published in January 2021. The plan continues to focus on China, which the CNO said is both a current and long-term challenge. Gilday’s vision of the Navy of the future focuses on the 2040s, where he envisions a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned ships and aircraft – more than 350 manned ships with about 150 unmanned surface and underwater platforms, and an aviation fleet of about 3,000 aircraft, about forty percent with pilots in the cockpits and the other sixty percent unmanned. We’ll dive deeper into the plan and its issues in a few moments.
The Indian Navy’s new aircraft carrier VIKRANT was delivered from Cochin Shipyard on July 28. Construction of the 45,000-ton ship, known as the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, began in early 2009 with design help from Fincantieri. Sea trials began in August 2021, and commissioning ceremonies are expected to take place August 15 in conjunction with India’s Independence Day.
A sudden storm blew through the Norfolk, Virginia area on the afternoon of July 26, heavily damaging at least ten helicopters at Norfolk Naval Air Station’s Chambers Field. Although no personnel were injured, five MH-60 Sierra helicopters, one MH-60 Romeo, and four MH-53E Sea Dragon mine countermeasures helicopters suffered Class A mishaps – a category for aircraft that are either destroyed or suffer at least $2.5 million in damage.
US Navy efforts to develop a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel moved forward July 29 with contract awards to 6 companies to continue design studies through September 2024. The companies – Huntington Ingalls Industries, Lockheed Martin, Austal USA, Bollinger Shipyards, Fincantieri Marinette Marine and Gibbs & Cox, are all already working under similar contract. The contracts are for varying amounts, between about $9 million and $13 million. The contract amounts and the deadline two years from now seem to indicate the US Navy is not in a hurry to field the larger unmanned surface vessel, which has been described at different times as a vessel having an offensive missile capability.
The UISS Unmanned Influence Sweep System (a name that just trips off the tongue…) reached Initial Operating Capability July 22 with the US Navy. Coupled with the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle it’s the primary mine hunting sensor for the littoral combat ship’s mine hunting mission package. System has been in development for some time, was tested off SoCal last spring and summer aboard USS MANCHESTER LCS14.
In new ship news:
The amphibious transport dock FORT LAUDERDALE LPD 28 was commissioned in ceremonies at Port Everglades, Florida on July 30. The ship is a modified version of the San Antonio LPD-17-class – along with sistership RICHARD M McCOOL JR they are known as the Flight One-Plus variant. Flight II, a further design development, will begin with the HARRISBURG LPD 30. FORT LAUDERDALE will be homeported at Norfolk with the Atlantic Fleet. The last three new LPDs were based at San Diego with the Pacific Fleet.
The fleet oiler USNS JOHN LEWIS T-AO 205 was delivered to the US Navy and Military Sealift Command July 26 from General Dynamics NASSCO at San Diego. The first-in-class ship is the first new fleet oiler since 1995. Seven more ships are now building at GD NASSCO or under contract, with a total expected to reach twenty oilers.
In old ship news – the dock landing ship USS WHIDBEY ISLAND LSD 41 was ceremonially decommissioned July 22 at Norfolk Naval Base after a career that began in 1985. The ship is to be placed in reserve.
Actions speak louder than words.
The fact that the most recent Navplan is well written is great, but is much less important to me than what the Navy actually does to achieve the goals and standards the document lays out.
Action speaks louder than words
The CNO and his deputies need to be more aggressive about actually enacting the change described in their plans instead of simply declaring victory every time a new strategy or white paper is released.
Navy leaders have a moral authority to be honest and forthright about the Navy the nation needs, not just in Navplans or trade show speeches, but everyday and to every audience.
As he enters his last year CNO and his team need to get as much chalk on their cleats as possible without actually stepping over the line and running a foul of their civilian masters.
Given the security environment, the country needs an action oriented CNO that aggressively communicates and carries out a plan to restore American Seapower.
If Admiral Gilday does that, if he can fight for the ideas argued for in the Navplan, he will surely find more and more allies along the way.
To date, the Navy’s schizophrenic and half-hearted approach to advocating for national seapower and the maritime forces required to maintain maritime superiority have cost them valuable partners in industry and on the Hill.
Industry needs a credible approach that is more than words. They need to see a budget and shipbuilding plan that matches the rhetoric. Without it they will go their own way.
Congress needs to hear the truth—they need to be told about the threats we face, what is needed to combat those threats and what the associated risk is for underfunding the plan or letting parochial interests rule the day.
Congressman Mike Gallagher’s proposed change to the Title 10 mission of the Navy is an excellent example of what can happen when you work closely with Congress.
If passed, the change in language to account for the Navy’s deterrent role will give the CNO the cover he needs to build a budget and make the case necessary to help restore American Seapower to where it needs to not only win wars but prevent them.
Give Industry a real plan they can enact, help Congress help you…again, Action speaks louder than words.
Admiral Gilday and the staff drafted a solid Navplan…now lets hope they do everything in their power to act on it.