CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Feb 03, ’23] Episode 82…Bigger Seems to Be Better


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…Bigger is better – at least 25 out of 28 times in naval warfare. Strategist Dr. Sam Tangredi will join us to talk about why bigger fleets win – and what the US Navy should do about it in the face of the ever-expanding Chinese Navy.

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

The destroyer USS NITZE arrived off Istanbul, Turkey on February 3 and anchored off the city before heading to visit the Turkish Naval Base at Golcuk. It appears to be the first time a US Navy warship has gone through the Turkish Straits as far as Istanbul since December 2021, before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago. There appear to be no plans for the ship to enter the Black Sea.

 Also on February 3, the deployed carrier USS GEORGE H W BUSH arrived at Pireaus, Greece for a port call. And in the western Pacific, the USS NIMITZ continues to patrol the South China Sea with her strike group.

The United States and the Philippines announced an agreement to designate an additional four bases for US military forces to operate from, part of an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – or EDCA – to house US troops and their equipment in Philippine military bases. The announcement on February 2 did not specify individual bases, but it is widely expected that the former US naval base at Subic Bay could again be open to US ships. The new agreement brings the number of EDCA bases to nine.

In old ship news, Brasil’s government as of February 3 plans to sink the decommissioned aircraft carrier SAO PAULO in a “planned and controlled sinking” in deep water within the country’s exclusive economic zone and outside environmental protection areas. The Brazilian ministry of defense said the ship’s condition is poor with an “inevitability of spontaneous/controlled sinking.” SAO PAULO is the former French aircraft carrier FOCH, launched in 1959. As with most warships of that era, asbestos was widely used in construction as a fire retardant and the ship reportedly still contains much of that cancer-causing substance. The decision to sink the ship is highly controversial because of the environmental hazards, and Brasil has brushed aside internal protests and rejected several outside efforts to help dispose of the ship, including a US $6 million offer from the Sela Saudi Arabian Jeddah group to purchase the vessel.

Servello Squawk:

For the better part of a decade the United States government, particularly DoD, has been preparing for competition with China.

This week’s balloon discovery and public revelation has demonstrated that the Pentagon may not be as prepared as they would like the American people to believe.

The public faces of the administration struggled to convey both the tactical and strategic significance of the balloon’s presence over the homeland—leaving many Americans confused and frightened about what this escalation might mean for relations with Beijing.

You mean to tell me none of the $817 Billion allocated for defense covers the removal of weather balloons illegally operating over our territory?

As the most technologically advanced country in the history of the world, we can’t knock this object out of the sky without endangering lives on the ground in rural Montana?

These are likely the types of questions that will be batted around kitchen tables across the country this evening because officials fumbled the ball when explaining what was discovered and how the United States intended to handle it.

Competing with an adversary short of conflict is about more than buying ships and airplanes. Its about establishing and maintaining a strategic narrative that reassures audiences at home and abroad when tactical moves catch the public by surprise.

During the Cold War we were very good at this, and based on our performance this week its something we need to think about and train on…because things aren’t going to get any easier.

Balloons over Montana are likely just the beginning, as the Chinese increasingly flex their muscles outside of their backyard.

The government’s ability to recognize these flexes and respond quickly and confidently will go a long way in maintaining public confidence and minimizing the Chinese pr value of such bad behavior.

The same way we have begun training to shoulder Chinese ships at sea and respond to their aggressive air maneuvers its time to better prepare to win the narrative. We can no longer afford to be caught flat footed—we must be ready to act.

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