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…the carrier air wing mission has changed as aviators turn their attention from wars in the desert to supporting NATO and deterring China. The F-35C is now fully integrated into the carrier air wing and a growing unmanned aviation presence is right around the corner. YouTube creator and naval aviator Ward Carroll is with us to discuss the latest in Naval Aviation.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
An apparent Ukrainian unmanned surface drone attack appeared to severely damage the Russian Ropucha-class amphibious ship OLENEGORSKIY GORNYAK during the night of August 3-to-4. Dramatic video posted on social media showed the view from the drone as it maneuvered directly into the amphibious ship’s port side and hitting it amidships. Images posted on the morning of August 4 showed the ship listing heavily to port but still afloat. The attack took place just off Novorossiysk, where the Russian naval base was thought to be more secure than that at Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has transferred most of its aircraft – fighters, bombers, radars, air defense and airfield units – to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, part of a major Chinese military aircraft reorganization, the US Air Force’s China Aerospace Institute reported July 31. The moves reflect a growing emphasis on multidomain operations, and that most Chinese maritime strike missions are joint in nature. Among the transfers are all of the Navy’s minelaying aircraft to an Air Force that has not performed that mission.
The submarine USS NORTH CAROLINA arrived at the Australian Navy’s Fleet Base West in Rockingham, Western Australia on August 4. It’s the first visit of a Virginia-class submarine to Australia since the September 2021 announcement of the AUKUS partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the US. Phase One of AUKUS features increased US submarine visits ahead of the establishment in early 2027 of Submarine Rotational Force-West with up to four Virginia-class subs and British Astute-class boat operating from Fleet Base West.
The US Navy on August 4 appears to have reversed course and now plans to buy amphibious ships LPDs 33, 34 and 35. In a notice posted on SAM.gov, Naval Sea Systems Command said it “intends to issue solicitation from Huntington Ingalls” for the ships. The notice comes after this year’s budget submissions wherein LPDs were zeroed out for what the Navy called a procurement “pause,” and goes back on multiple statements and Congressional testimony from service leadership questioning whether the Navy would continue to buy San Antonio-class Flight II LPDs, which are only built at HII’s Ingalls shipyard. Congress was nearly unanimous in its opposition to the pause.
There were two significant developments this past week affecting the US Navy’s destroyer force. On August 1 the Navy announced a new multi-year procurement program covering fiscal years 2023 to 2027 and awarded contracts to both shipyards that build Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Huntington Ingalls will build six destroyers over the five years, while General Dynamics Bath Iron Works will build three. The MYP features one option for an additional ship anywhere within the multi-year, plus one option each year should an additional ship be requested either by the Navy or Congress, for a total of 15 ships should all options be exercised. All the new ships will be Flight III variants, with the first ship starting with hull number DDG 140.
And on August 3 the Navy announced the service life extension of four earlier Flight I Burke-class destroyers beyond their planned 35-year expiration date. Destroyers RAMAGE and BENFOLD have been extended to 40-year service lives, while the MITSCHER and MILIUS get another four years to a total of 39 years. All the ships are fitted for ballistic missile defense with advanced Aegis Base 9 combat systems, and, the Navy said, all are in good material condition.
And in new ship news, a keel ceremony was held August 3 for the Virginia-class submarine OKLAHOMA SSN 802. It will only be the second time a ship has borne the Sooner State’s name, the first being battleship BB 37 that was sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941. OKLAHOMA will be completed at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia.