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…We traveled to Turkey to see up close how a government-owned company is building ships in the country’s biggest naval shipyard. We’ll talk with ASFAT’s chief executive about how his business has become a major defense player in only five years, the company’s joint venture to build ships for and in Pakistan, and what’s next.
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This Week’s Naval Round Up:
The USS DWIGHT D EISENHOWER Carrier Strike Group passed inbound through the Strait of Hormuz on November 26 to enter the Persian Gulf. With the IKE were cruiser PHILIPPINE SEA, destroyers STETHEM and GRAVELY, and the French frigate LANGUEDOC. A French E-2C Hawkeye airborne command and control aircraft and French Air Force Rafale strike aircraft also provided cover. The group’s passage through the strait was closely watched by Iranian surveillance aircraft, and on November 28 US Naval Forces Central Command said an Iranian unmanned aircraft, quote, “took unsafe and unprofessional actions” near the EISENHOWER while the ship was operating in international waters in the central Persian Gulf. NAVCENT said the UAV was visually identified as Iranian and came within 1,500 yards of the carrier, violating standard safety precautions.
Meanwhile, several events took place in the Red Sea. In the most recent incident on November 26, five suspected pirates later identified as Somali nationals boarded the Liberian-flagged chemical tanker CENTRAL PARK in the central Red Sea. A distress call from the tanker brought a quick response from the nearby US destroyer MASON and a P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, along with the Japanese destroyer AKEBONO and a Japanese P-3C Orion aircraft and the South Korean destroyer YANG MAN CHUN, all working with Combined Task Force 151. Unable to gain control of the CENTRAL PARK, the pirates abandoned the tanker and attempted to flee but were taken into custody by the MASON. Concurrently, a ballistic missile launched from Yemen, apparently by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, was engaged and destroyed by the MASON, reportedly using SM-2 missiles. The missile landed in the sea about ten nautical miles from the group of ships but on November 28 the Pentagon said it appeared the ships were not the intended target, and it was not conclusive that either one or more Houthi missiles involved.
In the western Pacific, the US destroyer HOPPER carried out a freedom of navigation passage November 25 in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands. A statement from U S Seventh Fleet said the FONOP challenged restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, all of whom claim sovereignty over the Paracels.
Meanwhile, the littoral combat ships GABRIELLE GIFFORDS and MOBILE and a US Navy P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron 8 joined with warships from the Philippines and Australia – among others – beginning November 23 to begin Maritime Cooperative Activity patrols in the South China Sea, a move designed to counter increasingly aggressive Chinese movements in the region.
The Australian frigate TOOWOOMBA, the target on November 14 of an incident near Japan where, the Australian government said, the Chinese destroyer NINGBO closed close to the frigate and activated its sonar while an Australian diver was in the water, carried out a north-to-south passage of the Taiwan Strait on November 23. TOOWOOMBA continued on into the South China Sea and joined with the LCSs GABRIELLE GIFFORD and MOBILE on November 29 on a Maritime Cooperative Activity patrol.
A US Navy P-3A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft overshot the runway November 20 at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneoha Bay, Hawaii and came to rest in shallow water just off the runway. There were no injuries to the crew — from the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron Four — and as of December 1 the aircraft was still being defueled prior to salvage.
Despite that mishap, Canada on November 30 announced it had finalized a government-to-government agreement to buy up to 16 P-8As for the Royal Canadian Air Force, replacing the CP-140 Aurora in the multi-mission maritime patrol role. The deal to replace the Auroras, which are more than 40 years old, is worth at least $6 billion dollars US.
In new ship news, the assault ship BOUGAINVILLE LHA 8 was christened December 2 at HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Launched in late September, the ship’s sponsor is Ellyn Dunford, spouse of former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.
On Nov 21 the Department of the Navy released its inaugural Cyber Strategy…featuring seven lines of efforts– improve and support the cyber workforce; defend enterprise IT, data, and networks; secure Defense Critical Infrastructure and weapon systems; conduct and facilitate cyber operations; partner to secure the Defense Industrial Base; and foster cooperation and collaboration.
According to outgoing Department of the Navy Principal Cyber Advisor Chris Cleary, the strategy demonstrates the Department’s priority to both defend the Navy’s cyber enterprise and data as well as conduct and facilitate cyber operations across the globe.
Chris, we don’t typically talk cyber on this pod…nor to we spend a ton of time fussing over documents…but I like this document for several reasons…three immediately jump to mind.
First, such a strategy is long overdue. This document helps draw attention to an underfunded and under-appreciated focus area. Our Navy is the most capital and technology intensive of the armed services and we spend less than the cost of one ship protecting the data and electronic systems that make us the greatest Navy in the world. This strategy will help streamline priorities and funding to grow the resources, both human and fiscal, to better keep naval “ones and zeros” safe from our adversaries.
Second…and on a much more practical level. It is a well-constructed and laid out document that is easy to read. There are lots pictures, white space and graphics. I didn’t feel like I was reading stereo instructions while reviewing the strategy. Bravo Zulu to those who authored and laid out the document.
Finally…listen to a few sentences from the Conclusion:
“The Department of the Navy Cyber Strategy contributes to the defense of the nation and enables the sustainment of American sea power. Alongside our efforts supporting maritime dominance in the physical domains, we must develop and build on our capabilities in cyberspace to enable naval operations and structure our forces for success in strategic competition. These actions are fundamental to defending the free and open rules-based order that has generated unprecedented prosperity, interconnectivity, and freedom for decades.
‘Seapower,’ ‘maritime dominance’, ‘prosperity’…hot damn Chris…they’re speaking our language. It’s hard not to like a document that thoughtfully connects budget, operating and human effects to the very reason for having a Navy. The department’s cyber leadership obviously understands where they and the Navy fit into national security. I look forward to watching them enact this impressive vision.
Check out the strategy if you like this stuff the way we do!