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 view from Oceana: We caught up with newly-installed commander of Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, at the recent Naval Air Station Oceana air show. We talked about some of his greatest challenges, including maintenance of the US Navy’s air fleet, along with the recruitment and retention of sailors and aviators. Stay tuned for a great discussion from the flight line.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
The US Navy’s Integrated Undersea Surveillance System is being upgraded and expanded by the Theater Undersea Surveillance Command based at Whidbey Island, Washington State, Reuters reported September 20. Intended to monitor the growing Chinese Navy, the IUSS includes undersea cables, acoustic surveillance ships, multiple unmanned craft, so-called underwater satellite sensors, space satellites tracking ships by radio frequency and the use of AI artificial intelligence software to analyze data. The IUSS is the successor to the more widely known SOSUS system, for Sound Surveillance System, made famous during the Cold War. The SOSUS acronym was changed in 1985 but is still widely recognized.
Four US Navy unmanned surface vessels have crossed the Pacific Ocean and are now operating for the first time from Japan. The Ghost Fleet USVs MARINER and RANGER along with the medium-sized SEA HUNTER and SEAHAWK operated from Pearl Harbor during August’s Large Scale Exercise, then moved to Guam and then Japan for Integrated Battle Problem 23.2 exercises. A Navy official told reporters the unmanned vessels are not being used experimentally but are being integrated into US Seventh Fleet operations.
Three South African Navy sailors died September 20 when they were washed overboard from the submarine MANTHATISI off the coast of Cape Town. Four other submariners went into the sea but were rescued after they were hit by waves and wind during a supply transfer with a South African Air Force Lynx helicopter.
The US Marine Corps finally has a permanent commandant as of September 22. General Eric Smith became the 39th Commandant of the Marine Corps after the US Senate was able to confirm him in the post on September 21, along with confirming General Randy George as the US Army’s new chief of staff. The vote to confirm Smith was 96 to nothing; while George’s confirmation vote passed 96 to one. The Senate on September 20 confirmed Air Force General C Q Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by an 83 to 11 vote. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Lisa Franchetti has yet to be confirmed as Chief of Naval Operations, but it’s expected that a vote will take place in the coming days. The votes for the top officers were held individually rather than by normal unanimous consent votes normally held in the Senate. More than 300 other flag and general officers remain unconfirmed with their nominations on hold by Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. A study by the Congressional Research Service concluded in August that it would take more than 90 8-hour working days to pass the remaining nominations held up by Tuberville.
A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter crashed September 17 after its pilot ejected from the aircraft near Charleston, South Carolina. The pilot came down safely in a rural area north of Charleston, after taking off from nearby Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (BU-FORT) but his aircraft continued flying for about 60 more miles before coming down in a field. The location of the crash was unknown for more than a day until a search found the Lightning’s debris on September 18. The aircraft and pilot were assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501. The Marines called a two-day safety standdown after the accident, and have not said what caused the pilot to eject. The incident remains under investigation.
The British aircraft carrier HMS PRINCE OF WALES arrived at Naval Station Mayport, Florida on September 20 to begin about three months of operations off the US east coast. A key goal of the deployment is to certify the ship and her crew for F-35B Joint Strike Fighter operations.
The Providers of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 completed their final flight of the C-2A Greyhound Carrier Onboard Delivery, or COD, aircraft on September 20, flying their aircraft from Naval Air Station North Island, California to Naval Air Station Norfolk in Virginia. With the Pacific Fleet completing its transition to the CMV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in the COD role, VRC-30 will be decommissioned in December. The Rawhides of VRC-40 will continue operating the C-2A for about another two years before the Atlantic Fleet transitions to the Osprey.
In new ship news, the littoral combat ship USS MARINETTE LCS 25 was commissioned September 16 at Menominee, Michigan, just across the river of the same name from her namesake city in Wisconsin. The Freedom-class ship enters service as older ships of the same class are being decommissioned, some with less than five years of service. Three more Freedom-class LCSs continue under construction by Lockheed Martin at Fincantieri Marinette Marine before the production run ends.
And a keel ceremony was held September 20 at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi for the future amphibious assault ship FALLUJAH, LHA 9. The ship’s sponsor is Donna Berger, spouse of former Marine Corps commandant General David Berger. FALLUJAH is expected to be delivered to the US Navy in late 2029.
In old ship news, a decommissioning ceremony was held September 22 for cruiser USS BUNKER HILL CG 52 at San Diego. The first Ticonderoga-class cruiser fitted with a vertical launch system, The Hill was in commission for 37 years. BUNKER HILL is the fourth cruiser to be decommissioned in recent weeks. USS SAN JACINTO CG 56 held her decommissioning ceremony September 15 at Norfolk. USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN CG 57 was officially decommissioned and stricken for disposal on September 8 after holding a decom ceremony on September 1 at San Diego. Earlier, in August, USS MOBILE BAY CG 53 was decommissioned and stricken at San Diego.