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CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Sep 24, ’22] Episode 67…Rear Adm Casey Moton

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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…from frigates and littoral combat ships to mine warfare programs to the diverse ensemble of unmanned surface and underwater systems, the US Navy’s office of Unmanned and Small Combatants oversees a wide range of programs. Our guest is the commander of that effort, Rear Admiral Casey Moton. But first, a look at some of this week’s naval news.

Please send us feedback by DM’ing @CavasShips or @CSSProvision or you can email chriscavas@gmail.com or cservello@defaeroreport.com.

This Week’s Naval Round Up:

The aircraft carrier USS RONALD REAGAN arrived at Busan, Republic of Korea on Sept. 23, marking a resumption of visits to South Korea that were interrupted by the pandemic. The cruiser CHANCELLORSVILLE and destroyer BARRY, like the REAGAN based at Yokosuka, Japan, are with the REAGAN, while the destroyer BENFOLD called at Chinhae. The visits were widely reported by regional media as political messaging to North Korea.

The US destroyer HIGGINS and Canadian frigate VANCOUVER together carried out a transit of the Taiwan Strait on September 20, three weeks after two US cruisers made the passage between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. The US Navy since mid-2018 has been maintaining a roughly once-a-month pace for the moves, intended to demonstrate the US intent to maintain open sea lanes in international waters. The Canadian frigate WINNIPEG with US destroyer DEWEY carried out a similar US/Canadian strait transit in October 2021.

The US Coast Guard paid a rare visit to the India this week when the cutter MIDGETT called at Chennai for a three-day visit. The port call is the latest in a series of maritime engagements between the US and India, which included the overhaul of a Military Sealift Command ship in India this summer. The Honolulu, Hawaii-based National Security Cutter is in the midst of a western Pacific and Indian Ocean cruise.

A small, unmanned special operations craft was found washed up on shore in Omega Bay, Crimea Sept. 21 near the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. Images that appeared on social media showed a low, black-painted vessel about 16 feet long with several sensors. The vessel is thought to be a US-built and supplied explosive boat, perhaps one of the “unmanned coastal defense vessels” described by the Pentagon in April as being supplied to Ukraine. Russian reports said the vessel was towed to deeper water and exploded.

Navy officials are putting the final touches on the upcoming maiden deployment of the aircraft carrier USS GERALD R FORD. Although commissioned in July 2017, numerous technical issues and first-in-class testing requirements have dogged the ship over the past five years. While most of the ship’s major new technologies have been certified for operation, how well systems like the EMALS electro-magnetic aircraft launch system, the Advanced Arresting Gear, new electro-magnetic weapons elevators and the ship’s combat and sensor suite perform are major questions the Navy hopes will be answered by the cruise. The FORD and its carrier strike group, including aircraft from Carrier Air Wing EIGHT and the German frigate HESSEN, are expected to begin the deployment in early October.

In new ship news, the littoral combat ship USS COOPERSTOWN LCS23 was delivered Sept. 20 from Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Shipbuilding in Marinette, Wisconsin. The LCS is the second Freedom-class ship fitted with the combining gear correction that allows unrestricted operations. COOPERSTOWN will be commissioned in New York City before heading to her homeport of Mayport, Florida.

In old ship news, decommissioning ceremonies for three US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruisers were held at Norfolk, Virginia over the past week. USS MONTEREY CG 61 decommissioned September 16 after a 32-year career. The MONTEREY returned in September 2021 from her final major cruise, a nine-month independent deployment to the Fifth Fleet operating area in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. On September 22, USS ANZIO CG 68 officially ended her career at Norfolk. Although in commission for 30 years, ANZIO had not deployed since early 2017. The ship had been inducted into the US Navy’s Cruiser Modernization Program and underwent several costly overhauls, but completion of the modernization was canceled and the ship never returned to sea. And USS HUE CITY CG66 decommissioned September 23rd. One more cruiser, PORT ROYAL CG73, is expected to hold her decommissioning ceremony September 29 at Pearl Harbor. A fifth cruiser, VELLA GULF CG72, was decommissioned in early August. The decommissioned cruisers are being retained as spare parts assets for ships still in service.

And Leonard Glenn Francis, the person at the center of the infamous Fat Leonard bribery scandal that has plagued the US Navy for more than a decade, was apprehended Sept. 21 by Interpol authorities in Venezuela. Francis had escaped house arrest Sept. 4 in San Diego and fled the United States. Interpol said Francis had fled first to Mexico, then reached Venezuela after a layover in Cuba, and was headed for Russia. The Fat Leonard case now reaches an entirely new level as the United States does not recognize the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro and the countries do not have an extradition agreement. Francis now could become a piece in a larger exchange of prisoners between the two countries. Ironically, Francis had been set to appear in court September 22 for final sentencing for his activities in the scandal.

Servello Squawk:

This week I’d like to use my squawk to give a shout out and Bravo Zulu to Rear Admiral retired Frank Thorp and his team for all the great work they are doing to make the unique museum and memorial more relevant than ever.

Dedicated in 1987, the mission of the United States Navy Memorial is to Honor, Recognize, and Celebrate the men and women of the Sea Services, past, present, and future; and to Inform the public about their service. 

Last night was the annual Lone Sailor Awards Dinner…held for the first time in person since 2019.  The Lone Sailor Award is given to Sea Service veterans who have excelled with distinction in their respective careers during or after their service. 

The award recipients have distinguished themselves by drawing upon their military experience to become successful in their subsequent careers and lives, while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. The Naval Heritage Award is given to Americans who have excelled with distinction in their respective careers, distinguished themselves with their significant support of the nation’s Sea Services, and whose lives and careers exemplify the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. 

This year’s Lone Sailor Awardees were Coast Guard Veteran James R. Barker, an American shipping businessman who is the chairman of the Interlake Steamship Company and SeaStreak, along with Retired Navy Admiral Tom Fargo, a former Commander of US Pacific Command, the inspiration for the Bart Mancuso character in Hunt for Red October and a successful post-Navy Business and Corporate Board leader.

Christine Fox was given the Naval Heritage Award. Fox served in a number of important academic, think tank and government jobs that helped shape Navy and broader defense  thinking for decades. She is also known to be the inspiration for the character “Charlie” in the first Top Gun Movie.

There are lots of awards given to Americans who make a difference…The Lone Sailor Award is one of my favorites because they seem to get it right each every year. Whether the awardee is well known or flies under the public radar, each recipient is an inspiration to those serving and is a great ambassador for what it means to sacrifice in and out of uniform.

Again, Congrats to Rear Admiral Thorp and his staff for a great event…and if you haven’t been to the Navy Memorial in a while…be sure to stop by for their upcoming Navy birthday festivities. 

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