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 was a busy week for potential and upcoming naval developments. The US Navy is readying the carrier GERALD R FORD for its first extended cruise, the Russian-Ukraine conflict shows every sign of going on and on and on, and the US Coast Guard is fully engaged in rescue operations across central Florida. We’ll dive deeper into all those stories and more.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
The US Fourth Fleet on September 26 ordered all its ships and aircraft to either leave their Florida bases or prepare for heavy weather as Hurricane Ian approached Florida. Four Navy ships left Mayport Naval Base while six others unable to get underway rode out the storm pierside. The US Coast Guard is heavily involved in disaster response operations along Florida’s south-central Gulf coast, hard-hit by the storm. Coast Guard helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, cutters and small response boats are working as we speak to rescue people from flooded areas and places such as Sanibel Island, now cut off from the mainland when its causeway was destroyed. Coastie buoy tenders meanwhile are already working to survey channels and repair or replace hundreds of navigational markers displaced by the storm.
In the far Pacific, the destroyer ZUMWALT and littoral combat ship OAKLAND arrived at Yokosuka, Japan September 26, marking the first western Pacific deployments for both ships and the first time a Zumwalt-class ship has deployed to a forward operating area. OAKLAND is fully kitted out with eight box launchers for the Naval Strike Missile.
The US carrier RONALD REAGAN with cruiser CHANCELLORSVILLE and two destroyers wrapped up their port visits to South Korea September 28 and began a series of exercises in the Sea of Japan with Korean and Japanese warships, including a major anti-submarine exercise. And Vice President Kamala Harris, in Japan for the state funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visited the US destroyer HOWARD Sept. 28 at Yokosuka to make an address from the decks of the warship, highlighting the US presence in the region. She then flew to Korea and visited the demilitarized zone at Panmunjom.
The US Coast Guard reported on September 26 it began tracking a Russian-Chinese naval task force on September 19 in the Bering Sea. The seven-ship group, including the big Chinese destroyer NANCHANG, has been operating together for several weeks ranging from the Sea of Japan into the north Pacific. It was the second time this year a Russian-Chinese task group operated inside US exclusive economic zones near Alaska – while there are no international prohibitions against such operations the move is seen as something of a response to repeated US transits of the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
Russia has transferred two of its newest and most powerful submarines from the Northern Fleet in the Arctic to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The Project 955A Borey-class ballistic missile sub KYNAZ OLEG and Project 8851M Severomorsk-class attack sub NOVOSIBIRSK arrived about 29 Sept at Fokino naval base near Vladivostok. The move significantly strengthens the Russians in the Pacific.
A military judge in San Diego on September 30 acquitted Seaman Recruit Ryan Sawyer Mays on arson charges brought by the Navy that he started the fire that eventually led to the loss of the amphibious ship USS BONHOMME RICHARD in July 2020. The acquittal essentially reopens the search for the true cause of the fire. The Navy already has disciplined at least three dozen individuals for their roles in the disaster and has made several changes to its in-port fire-fighting procedures.
The aircraft carrier USS NIMITZ was tied to a wharf in San Diego for over a week after its fresh water supply was contaminated with fuel. The problem surfaced as early as September 16 while the ship was at sea and persisted when the ship came in to San Diego on September 17. NIMITZ was connected to the city water supply as its systems were drained and flushed for three days but without clearing the issue. Meanwhile the carrier’s strike group began pre-deployment exercises off Southern California in advance of the carrier getting underway again.w
The Navy announced September 29 it had purchased the research vessel PETREL from BVI Inc., the entity known as Vulcan that sponsored the ship’s numerous expeditions searching for long-lost and significant World War II shipwrecks. A pet project of the late Microsoft founder Paul Allen, the Vulcan group carried out a series of astounding finds that were well documented with state-of-the-art video equipment. Among the wrecks the group discovered were the US cruiser INDIANAPOLIS, carriers LEXINGTON, HORNET and WASP, Japanese battleship MUSASHI and aircraft carriers AKAGI and KAGA. The group planned to continue is operations after Allen’s 2018 death but it appears now to have disbanded. The Navy purchased the ship for $12.4 billion for use by the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center.
And on September 29 the cruiser USS PORT ROYAL was ceremonially decommissioned at Pearl Harbor – the fifth cruiser to be decommissioned since August. PORT ROYAL, commissioned in July 1994, was the newest of the 27 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, of which ten now have been decommissioned.
The devastation that has swept over southwest and central Florida clearly is staggering, rivaling scenes all too familiar from previous hurricanes like Katrina and Andrew – disasters that left permanent scars easily seen to this day. My pod partner Mister Servello and his family took some of Ian’s blast as well, even though they’re on Florida’s Atlantic coast.
The aerial views of the region around Fort Myers Beach, Naples, Sanibel Island show devastation not just to everything on shore, but how what’s left of streets in those areas are littered with boats. Many areas remain flooded. Bridges and causeways are gone, cutting off islands from the mainland. While there are first responders of all kinds, among those that can be counted on to swoop into all those stricken regions are the women and men of the United States Coast Guard.
I often think the Coast Guard is the most interesting – certainly the busiest – and least appreciated of all the military services. The things they do cover such an incredible range – Marine Safety, ports and waterways security, fisheries patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, marine environmental protection, maintaining aids to navigation, ship inspections, ice operations, disaster and crisis response, interactions with dozens of small navies and countries around the world. And of course, search and rescue. Their motto is Semper Paratus. Always ready. Time after time, when they’re really needed, the Coasties come through.
There are only about 42,000 men and women in uniform in the Coast Guard. We can never support them enough. Thank YOU.