CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Jun 07, ’24] Ep: 148 Keeping New Jersey Shipshape


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… Battleships aren’t often in the news, but over the past few weeks one of them certainly has been – the USS NEW JERSEY. The ship’s drydocking in Philadelphia has attracted widespread media attention and worldwide interest. Ryan Szimanski, curator for the battleship, will bring us up to date on what’s been going on, what lies ahead – and what some of the surprises have been as the more than 80-year-old ship has been out of the water for the first time in decades.

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This Week’s Naval News:

US Central Command reported June 7 that the temporary pier in Gaza has been successfully re-established. The pier, assembled by U.S. Army and Navy units, was damaged and displaced May 28 by bad weather in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.                                      

Houthi forces continue to attack shipping in the Red Sea, US Central Command reported, noting on June 6 that US CENTCOM forces destroyed eight unmanned aerial systems in flight over the Red Sea as well as two unmanned surface vessels. Another coalition warship, CENTCOM said, successfully engaged another Houthi unmanned aircraft. Houthis forces in Yemen also launched an anti-ship ballistic missile over the Red Sea but no injuries or damage to ships was reported.

A group of Russia naval ships is set to begin a visit to Cuba from June 12 through the 17th, multiple media outlets are reporting. The Yasen-class missile submarine KAZAN, along with the frigate ADMIRAL GORSHKOV, oiler AKADEMIK PASHIN and oceangoing tug NIKOLAI CHIKER could also visit Venezuela after calling in Cuba, a US official told the Reuters news agency. The Russian Navy has conducted periodic visits to the Caribbean for many years.

US Marine Corps MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial surveillance aircraft are operating from Basa Air Base in the Philippines, USNI News reported June 3. The aircraft, which are deploying on a rotational basis, are “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance in support of the development of intelligence sharing between the U.S. and our Philippine allies,” the First Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement. It’s the first publicly revealed foreign deployment for the Marine Corps Reapers since achieving initial operating capability in mid-2023 with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3.

The carrier USS GEORGE WASHINGTON passed westbound through the Strait of Magellan June 4 as she transits around the southern tip of Latin America. Destroyer USS PORTER and oiler USNS JOHN LENTHALL accompanied the carrier, which was also escorted by the Chilean frigate BLANCO ENCALADA. GW is expected to conduct exercises with the Chilean Navy during her transit.

Two major exercises involving US and allied forces kicked off June 7 – one in northern Europe, the other in the western Pacific. The active phase of NATO’s annual Baltic Operations exercises in the Baltic Sea – known as BALTOPS – began June 7 and will run through June 20. The 53rd BALTOPS will include four amphibious task groups and multinational task units composed of more than 50 vessels, 85 aircraft and 9,000 personnel. The seagoing portion of the exercises began at Klaipeda, Lithuania and features the largest assembled coalition of amphibious and mine countermeasures forces in BALTOPS history.

In the Pacific, Exercise Valiant Shield 2024 began June 7 in the waters around Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, and the Mariana Island Range Complex. The tenth iteration of the bilateral exercises features the carrier USS RONALD REAGAN and, for the first time, warships and aircraft from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Cavas Squawk:

Our friends at USNI News did a bit of math the other day when they looked at the US Navy’s eleven aircraft carriers and counted up the number of days each one had spent deployed over the past five years. The runner-up, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, currently cruising the western Pacific, has some impressive numbers – 474 days deployed and counting since the beginning of 2020. That’s pretty darned good, but nearly three months behind the champ, USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, second-oldest carrier in the fleet.

  Ike has been out 556 days since she deployed on January 17, 2020. They’re still underway, now entering her eighth month at sea since leaving Norfolk in mid-October with Carrier Air Wing Three. The Pentagon has twice extended EISENHOWER’s current deployment – she’s needed in the Red Sea, where her aircraft have been busy virtually every day operating against aggressive Houthi forces. The ship’s presence, Pentagon officials told USNI News, has been key in the US effort to keep the conflict in Yemen and Gaza from spreading.

  It is also interesting to note that, according to the USNI News analysis, carriers based on the US East Coast are averaging almost a month more deployed than their West Coast counterparts. The IKE, along with USS HARRY S TRUMAN, USS GEORGE H W BUSH and the newer USS GERALD R FORD, have been key in demonstrating US resolve in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Mid East.

  The effort to field these carriers – to keep them running and combat-effective – is enormous and expensive – in money, time, numbers of people, numbers of organizations and units involved. And IKE is no spring chicken – construction began in 1970 and the ship was commissioned in 1977. She completed her mid-life refueling overhaul in 2005, 19 years ago. This stuff isn’t easy, but it’s really easy to take the effort for granted. THEODORE ROOSEVELT is her own challenge – she commissioned in 1986, 38 years ago.

  Well, we don’t take it for granted. Thousands of men and women across multiple generations of sailors have worked hard and continue to work hard to make it all happen. So this week, we’d just like to shout out a big Bravo Zulu and our thanks to all those involved in keeping the screws turning on these giants of the sea. And especially, USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER.

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