Blackthorn Memorial

Sunday, January 28, 2018 – 2:00 p.m.
Liberty Baptist Church
9401 9th Street North
St Petersburg, FL  33702

The Navy Gave Me A Sneak Peek of Its Most Powerful Aircraft Carrier Ever

The United States Navy will commission the first of a new generation of aircraft carriers into service later this month on July 22.

When she is commissioned, the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will represent the future of naval aviation and will be the most advanced and capable aircraft carrier ever built.

With Ford’s imminent commissioning ceremony coming up later this month, the Navy invited The National Interest to preview the mighty warship and see the new vessel’s technology firsthand on July 10.

Even at first glance, PCU Gerald R. Ford is an impressive sight even as she was moored pierside at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia next to older Nimitz-class carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)—one of America’s oldest flattops, USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

Immediately noticeable is that Gerald R. Ford’s island is not only smaller than that of the Nimitz-class carriers, but that the structure is set further astern by about 140ft and slightly further starboard. Moreover, unlike regular fleet carriers, the brand-new Ford is still in pristine condition and sports a gold-painted anchor—a badge of honor noting that she has an exceptionally high crew retention rate.

Entering the massive vessel via one of her three aircraft elevators—Nimitz-class ships have four—into her cavernous hangar bay, Ford’s interior looks similar to that of other carriers. However, whereas the Nimitz-class has three partitions in their hangar bays, the new CVN-78-class has only two in order to simplify maintenance.

As we walked into the interior to climb up to the bridge, the air conditioning is immediately noticeable. Ford is able to produce 9,900 tons of air conditioning—which not only makes for a more productive crew but should reduce maintenance requirements for new vessels because of reduced humidity. Indeed, the key tenant of the entire CVN-78-class is improved maintainability and efficiency. Unlike previous carriers, Ford is projected to enter drydock only once every 12 years.

Climbing up into Ford’s bridge, the systems are far more advanced than anything else in the Navy’s fleet other than the new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers. All of the controls and navigational systems are completely digital and use touch-screen interfaces. The only concession to the past is a metal wheel connected to an electronic steering and transmission system—though the ship does have backup systems.

The entire ship features far greater automation—with far greater reliance on electrical and electronic systems—than any other carrier in the fleet. To power her systems and to meet future growth requirements, Ford’s twin nuclear reactors are almost three times more powerful than the ones onboard the Nimitz-class—generating 250 percent more electricity. Indeed, sister PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN-79)—currently under construction—will adopt electrically-powered elevators, further reducing the need for hydraulic systems.

Primary flight control—which is a few more decks up on the island—is similarly high-tech, but aside from a few modifications to the firefighting system—the setup is very similar to the Nimitz-class according to Lt. Commander Jon Biehl, Ford’s mini-boss (deputy air boss) and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot. Biehl said he is very confident in the new carrier’s systems though the ship has yet to be tested in launching and recovering real aircraft.

“Very confident, it’s proven to be successful,” Biehl said.

Several decks down in Flight-deck Control, I was surprised to see a traditional “Ouija board,” which visually indicates the position and status of aircraft on the ship’s flight deck using scaled aircraft templates and various pins and washers. Ford has automated systems that track the location and status of the ship’s aircraft, but the crew setup the Ouija board as a manual backup—and for the sake of tradition.

“We kept the Ouija board for guys just like you that come into flight deck control and it’s just not flight deck control if the Ouija board is not here,” Lt. Commander Jamie Roman, Ford’s aircraft handling officer told me.

“This was not part of the ship’s design, this was taken out because we have a system that will track the aircraft called ADMACS [Aviation Data Management and Control System.”

Our next stop was the flight-deck, which we reached via the hangar bay via one of Ford’s three aircraft elevators. Ford’s rearranged and reconfigured flight deck—which is 1,106ft long and somewhat wider than the Nimitz-class’—visibly looks and feels considerably larger than that of previous generation aircraft carriers.

Underneath, the massive steel deck, Ford is equipped with four Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and an Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) which are replacing their steam and hydraulically driven equivalents onboard the Nimitz-class (and which allows for unrestricted operation of the #4 catapult). The ship also features 40 refueling stations and a revised configuration for her weapons elevators. The ship could achieve between 25 and 33 percent greater sortie generation rates than her predecessors once she has been fully tested according to Navy projections.

Capt. Brent Gaut, Ford’s executive officer, said that the next steps for the ship and her crew after commissioning will be to move into the test and evaluation phase. By the end of July, the ship is expected to set sail for a 10 to 12-day shakedown period where the crew will begin to test all of Ford’s systems including the EMALS and AAG. If all goes well, the ship will be certified to launch and recover aircraft by the end of September or early October.

“The systems I think, in theory, are just phenomenal and designed to perform a certain way,” Gault said.

“And now the challenge is to be able to go out and make sure they are able to meet the mark and they allow us to do what we need to do, which is put the ship in harm’s way and go out and fight the fight. So we need to make sure we get there first.”

Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, said that the ship has already tested the EMALS and AAG with dead loads, and as such, he is very confident that the systems will work as advertised. Indeed, both systems have proven themselves in testing, but the Navy has to be certain that they meet operational standards at sea.

“I’m very very confident that the EMALS will do everything we need it to,” McCormack said.

“But bottom line, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to test and evaluate these systems.”

As McCormack explained, the Navy will use the post-commissioning shakedown to test all of the new systems onboard Ford to identify any deficiencies or fixes that might need to be made. Ford will then move into a post-shakedown availability where the shipyard will make any needed corrections and install certain critical components onboard the ship that have yet to be installed. One such system is Ford’s Dual Band Radar, McCormack said, where there is still ongoing work that must be completed.

Subsequently, the ship will then go out to sea for another shakedown cruise to ensure that all of the corrections and new systems work properly, McCormack said. If all goes well, the ship should be operational by 2020. If the current schedule holds, Ford should be able to work up with an air wing and deploy in 2021 or 2022.

“All this stuff takes time, so in an ideal world—where everything works right the first time—we go out there and everything works great, you’re on timeline,” McCormack said.

“If you go out there, and it doesn’t work quite right and you have to redesign—or there’s something they can do so that it works a little better—that takes time.”

Early signs are promising.

Ford seems to be delivering on the promise of a more efficient carrier that will take naval aviation into the future. Ford—which is based on the Nimitz-class hull form—restores weight and stability margins by reconfiguring the ship’s interior, though she displaces roughly 100,000-tons just like the CVN-68 class (Indeed, one officer noted that while a sea, Ford is much more sporty than the Nimitzthanks to her prodigious horsepower and reconfigured interiors). But more importantly, Ford adds improved survivability measures while reducing manning and maintenance requirements. If all of Navy’s projections are realized, the service will save $4 billion in total ownership costs over the life of the ship.

For operators like McCormack—a career Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilot—they just want to take the ship out and launch jets. Indeed, McCormack said that he wants to be among the first aviators to “trap” onboard Ford.

“As an operator, I just want to go to sea,” McCormack said.

“I want to launch airplanes and catch them and hopefully get a launch and an arrestment myself in a Super Hornet.”

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Davemajumdar.

Frigate competition wide open: Navy specs reveal major design shift By: David B. Larter, July 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: Austal USA)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy is looking for inputs from industry on a new multimission guided-missile frigate adapted from existing ship designs, a major departure from its modular littoral combat ship, according to a request for information released Monday.

The RFI lays out a ship that opens the door to almost any existing design that can be adapted to the Navy’s needs, which extends beyond just the two LCS hull forms being built by Lockheed Martin and Austal USA.

The service is looking for a ship with combat and mechanical systems that will fully integrate with a carrier strike group, hunt submarines and kill ships over the horizon. Labeling the ship the FFG(X), the ship will be expected to keep up with the full carrier strike group and be able to operate independently in high-end threat environments.

The Navy is looking to avoid “sticker shock,” said Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, the service’s director of surface warfare, said in a Monday telephone interview, and engage with ship builders about what trade-offs the Navy would have to make to get the most capability from the ship.

“This is an effort to get the design right up front,” Boxall said. “We’re looking to have a dialogue with industry to get the most capability for the best price.”

Boxall did not say how much the U.S. Navy is willing to spend but said the RFI was intended to draw out what the U.S. Navy could get for its shipbuilding dollar.

In order to get the ship to the fleet as fast as possible, the U.S. Navy wants builders to adapt from existing designs, the RFI said.
“A competition for FFG(X) is envisioned to consider existing parent designs for a Small Surface Combatant that can be modified to accommodate the specific capability requirements prescribed by the US Navy,” it reads.
The U.S. Navy wants a frigate that can keep up with the aircraft carrier — a nagging problem with the current classes of small surface combatants — and have sensors networked in with the rest of the fleet to expand the overall tactical picture available to the group.
“The FFG(X) will normally aggregate into strike groups and Large Surface Combatant led surface action groups but also possess the ability to robustly defend itself during conduct of independent operations while connected and contributing to the fleet tactical grid.”
The U.S. Navy would like for the ship to be able to:

  • Kill surface ships over the horizon
  • Detect enemy submarines
  • Defend convoy ships
  • Employ active and passive electronic warfare systems
  • Defend against swarming small boat attacks
The U.S. Navy is looking to limit the number of ground-breaking technologies that go into the ship, looking for engineering and combat systems that are already common in the fleet.

The U.S. Navy lists several capabilities, among the most important including:
  • A fixed, phased-array radar
  • An “AEGIS-derivative” combat system that uses a common source library
  • The ability to launch a single MH-60R Seahawk helicopter
  • Four canister launched over-the-horizon weapons
  • SeaRAM
  • MQ-8C Firescout
Other capabilities in “tier two” include various sonar equipment such as variable-depth and towed-array sonar, Cooperative Engagement Capability to be able to share target data with other ships and aircraft in the fleet, rigid-hull inflatable boats, Next Generation Surface Search Radar, and a MK 110 57mm gun and related systems.
The U.S. Navy wants the ship to be used for surface and anti-submarine warfare — traditional frigate roles — and to take on lower-level missions, such as security cooperation, that don’t require multibillion-dollar warships. It also must be hardened against electronic warfare attack.
The U.S. Navy is also particularly interested in having the frigate be a platform for deploying unmanned systems “to penetrate and dwell in contested environments, operating at greater risk to gain sensor and weapons advantages over the adversary.”
The frigate should be able to establish a complicated picture of a tactical environment with its on-board sensors, unmanned systems and embarked aircraft and beam that information back to the fleet through secure communications.

The U.S. Navy intends to award the contract for the first FFG(X) in 2020. It will buy one in 2020 and one in 2021, followed by two each year after that. The U.S. Navy’s requirement is for 52 small-surface combatants, the bulk of which will be LCS.

You can read the entire RFI here.

This story is developing. Check back later for more coverage, including a Q&A with Rear Adm. Boxall on the new design.

5 things to know about Richard Spencer, Navy secretary nominee

President Donald Trump unveiled his second nominee for secretary of the Navy late last week, and it was a name that had been rumored for months.

Richard V. Spencer, a finance executive with roots in military philanthropy, will go before the Senate for confirmation as the next civilian to oversee policy for the Navy and Marine Corps.


Here are five things to know about Spencer.

1. After college, he was a Marine Corps aviator from 1976 to 1981, serving with the Southern California-based 3rd Marine Air Wing and getting out as a captain.

2. In 2010, he was the architect of a plan to close military commissaries in the United States to save taxpayers an estimated $1 billion a year.

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At the time, Spencer was a member of the Defense Business Board, an appointed group that gives private-sector advice to the Pentagon about business practices.

3. Spencer has links to the top tiers of the Marine Corps and Navy through volunteer work on boards and philanthropy for veterans.

He is vice chairman of the nonprofit Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which was the driving force behind building the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia. He has served on the executive panel that advises the chief of naval operations.

Spencer is also an adviser to the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security, which provided some high-level executives to the Obama administration.

Additionally, he is on the board of Honoring Our Veterans, a Wyoming-based program to help returning wounded vets.

4. He lives just outside of Yellowstone National Park in Wilson, Wyoming — a state not known for its naval bases.

5. When Spencer’s nomination was announced, a white nationalist with a similar name had a field day on Twitter.

Richard B. Spencer, co-editor of, tweeted: “I humbly accept dominion over the U.S. Navy.”

The question facing the real nominee is whether he will have to withdraw due to his financial ties butting up against Pentagon ethics rules — as the prior nominee, Philip Bilden, did back in February.

Trump is still trying to fill the Army secretary job, as well.

2017 Navy Ball TOP GOLF Tournament – May 25

Fee: $75 per player (includes 3 ½ hrs of golf, team tournament, Skilled-Shot competition, food and door prizes)

Winners receive a trophy and prizes!

A silent auction will be held during the event.

All proceeds benefit the 2017 Tampa Bay Area Navy Birthday Ball.

Tickets can be purchased online or from your Navy Birthday Ball Representative

TOP GOLF Tournament – Navy Ball Event Tickets

(600 Golfer limit)

When: THURSDAY- 25 May 2017

Where: TopGolf, 10690 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL 33619

Free Play: 1230-1430 (All Golfers)

Skilled-Shot: 1300-1430 (Confident Golfers)

Team Play: 1430-1600 (Tournament All Golfers)

Food: Buffet Style (1300 – 1430)

Save the Date! Wednesday May 31, 2017- RADM Leroy Collins Academy Dinner

Image result for admiral leroy collinsThe Admiral Leroy Collins Academy Dinner will be held Wednesday, May 31, 2017. This dinner honors our local students who have received appointments to our military academies and ROTC scholarships. The late Leroy Collins, Jr.  was an incredible man who was a true friend and supporter of the Navy League. We are honored to support these great kids and provide this recognition in his name. The Starship dinner cruise has offered us a discounted rate, a DJ upstairs and given us the entire ship for our party. This event is open to the public, seats are limited to 150. This will be a great night out.  If you can not attend, but would like to support this event, you can donate $63 to the Navy League and we will use that to offset the ticket price for the parents and families. The Tampa Bay Navy League will provide tickets for the youth and would like to provide tickets to their parents as well.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Starship Dinner Cruise and Program: $63 per person

Click here to Register Now  or visit and click on events

603 Channelside Drive
Tampa, Florida 33602
Detailed directions and parking information
Phone: 813.223.7999

Boarding time: 6:30 PM
Sailing time: 7:00 PM
Return to Dock: 9:30 PM

Tall Ship Gunilla in Tampa Bay

The TS Gunilla tied up alongside the Port side of the SS American Victory Merchant Marine ship located behind the Florida Aquarium, 8-11 April.
This tall beauty has a 50-meter-long three-mast barque, with a total sail area of 1,000m² and holds a professional crew of 11 and 44 trainees/pupils. Training Ship Gunilla  is an integral part of the Swedish school system, taking Swedish pupils aged 16-19 years on a unique educational journey, with the world as their classroom.
She sails year long taking pupils on five separate trips. Itineraries include a sail from Safi (Morocco) to Miami and Tampa (the US) via Cape Verde, Grenada and the Dominican Republic. Second year from Öckerö (Sweden) down to Cadiz (Spain) via Germany, France, England and Portugal. And third year they start and stop in Miami (the US) sailing to Cuba, Belize, Mexico and Tampa (the US).

Florida delegates ask for money to bring aircraft carrier to Mayport

Florida’s entire congressional delegation attempted to breath life back into the idea of bringing a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport Naval Station by sending a letter to the Department of Defense on Monday asking for money to upgrade the vessel basin to accommodate the Navy’s largest surface ships.

 The letter stresses the importance of having nuclear carriers (CVN) at multiple locations on the East Coast to diversify Navy assets, and it cites an endorsement in the Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review that called for the necessary construction at Mayport.

“To mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, accident, or natural disaster, the U.S. Navy will homeport an East Coast carrier in Mayport, Florida,” the 2010 review said.

Mayport has not had a carrier since the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007. Prior to that, the USS Saratoga called Northeast Florida home for years before it was decommissioned in 1995.

“After the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy was decommissioned, the Navy prudently decided to complete construction necessary to make Mayport CVN capable,” said the letter to the Department of Defense.

The was sent to both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley asking them to consider the improvements at Mayport as they finalize the budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were the lead writers on the letter, and all 27 congressional representatives from Florida signed it.

“While we understand the realities of the fiscal environment, our Navy overleverages risk to our carrier fleet by having only one CVN homeport on the Eastern seaboard,” the letter said. “Not only are our operational CVN in jeopardy, but our future capital ships under construction are practically co-located, risking tens of billions of dollars of assets as well as our ability to project power abroad now and in the future.”

A statement from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was used in the letter to show a lone port for aircraft carriers on the West Coast was deemed unacceptable while Norfolk, Va. is the only location on the East Coast with the proper facilities. A statement from former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was used in the letter to show cost should not outweigh the importance of dispersing the carriers along the East Coast.

According to the letter, the Navy conducted a review over the course of several years before making the decision to bring a nuclear carrier to Mayport as early as 2019. But the modifications are still needed, and the talks of bringing a carrier to Mayport have cooled in recent years.

In November, Mabus discussed the Navy’s current landscape in Northeast Florida on his final visit to Jacksonville as secretary of the Navy. He touted the fact that Mayport is the new East Coast home port for the Freedom-variant littoral combat ships which will bring people and jobs to the area.

Mayport welcomed the first two littoral ships to the basin in December — USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) and USS Detroit (LCS 7) — and more are scheduled to arrive each year going forward. The littoral ships operate close to shore with steerable jet propulsion instead of propellers. The Freedom class have steel hulls with aluminum superstructures.

Monday’s letter emphasizes the importance of spreading out Navy forces and highlights Mayport’s strategic and operational value as reasons it would make the most sense as a landing spots for a new carrier.

“We implore you to no longer defer resource allocations needed for Mayport to continue its service to the carrier fleet,” the letter said.

Mayport is the current home to the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. The trio of ships is made up of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

The Iwo Jima is the largest in the basin with a core crew of about 700 sailors plus aircraft and U.S. Marine Corps personnel when needed.

If the decision is made to bring a carrier back to Mayport it would bring thousands of sailors with it.

Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308

CGC Blackthorn Memorial

The Tampa Bay Council of the Navy League was honored to support our Coast Guard family on Friday January 27, 2017.  The annual Blackthorn Memorial program was held at 2PM that day to honor and remember those brave Coast Guard members who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty during the Skyway Bridge tragedy.  Many of us who were local to the Tampa Bay area remember that day all too well.

Your Tampa Bay Council of the Navy League as well as the Sarasota Council of the Navy League was there to show support and provide a wreath for the memorial service.  The program included an aerial salute fly over from the local Coast Guard Stations, the reading of the names and bell rung, a rose placed upon the memorial, bag pipes and a gun salute.  It was a very moving day.

For more information on the Blackthorn, please visit:

Your contributions support these events and we thank our membership for your support.