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Speaking of the Russian Navy
...of the 1990s
One of the most high profile alliance units is Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2).
Consisting of a half dozen or so destroyers and frigates from assorted alliance members, it cruises about refining how we work together, conducting exercises, and showing the flag around the Mediterranean and Atlantic as time and livers allow. It is also an opportunity for nations to show their allies their professionalism.
Really, for a Sailor of any nation, it is some of the best duty you can find this side of BALTOPS … but I digress. We’ll return to BALTOPS at the bottom of the post.
Because of its high profile and extended operations with alliance nations, the ships we assign to SNMG2 don’t just represent the USA as any warship that “shows the flag” does, but it imprints on the mind of military and civilian leaders in Europe the quality of the US Navy and by extension, the nation it serves.
Our opponents in the world will also see it as an indication of our general health, morale, and the respect we show our friends.
I had an interesting seat as a junior officer. A little more than a month after reporting to my first sea duty command, I found myself with a front row seat to not just Desert Shield/Storm, but to the last year or so of the Soviet Union. I then watched from the Mediterranean and Atlantic the slow decay of the now Russian naval forces through the 1990s. A common refrain was as we got a close look at them was, “Did you see the condition they’re in?”
Looks matter. With ships, even more than people, the external manifestations of poor condition are a warning of significant problems inside the skin of the ship
Now, look up at the picture at the top of the post we got yesterday (thank you to the 1,324 readers who sent me the link) from WarshipCam.
Hell, I’ll save you the trouble, let’s look at it again.
That my friends is the Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) as it was leaving Toulon, France yesterday, May 22, 2023.
Yes, the ship named after a Boatswain’s Mate First Class looks like that. I am sorry BM1, we tried.
Each time, after swimming through excuses floating on a sea of denial, we were told, “It will get better.” It does on occasion - even if superficially - but it is clear that proper stewardship of the warships the American taxpayers bought for the Navy is not an enduring priority of our senior leaders or their political overlords anymore.
Getting back to centerline here, the WILLIAMS isn’t just some sad ship polluting the visuals from a stretch of Nigerian beachfront or some back bay of the Russian far north - no we are not that lucky.
SNMG2 decided to honor the United States Navy by having one of its destroyers be its flagship. That’s right kiddies; that rusting eyesore is the flagship of SNMG2.
The US Navy decided that this was the warship they wanted to represent the US Navy and the nation it serves. This was an act of commission - of intent - as conscious of an act as that which ensured that in the last few years that warship was not manned, trained, equipped, or maintained at a level which would allow for basic maintenance. Even as she got ready to get underway, no one stopped her. No one tried a last minute fix. The whole evolution has an ambiance of, “Who cares. Send her.”
Don’t think the insult isn’t properly understood, if not to Congress and the American people, then to our friends and competitors. Don’t think this isn’t the talk of allied wardrooms.
Just look at her condition when she showed up to take up flagship duties as proudly announced and displayed by our own DOD via DVIDS.
There she is on 12DEC22
If you want to see more pics from her entering the beautiful port of Toulon, WarshipCam has some more from you.
If you are not familiar with Toulon it is the premier naval base of the French Navy and the largest naval base in the Mediterranean. It is the French Norfolk or San Diego. More like San Diego as the naval base is right downtown in view of everyone.
In to all those eyeballs and press came the US Navy looking no longer like the world’s largest navy, which she isn’t anymore as the Chinese took that crown a couple of years ago, and not really seeming to care that we are floating around providing a confidence building visual little better than a Russian Krivak circa 1993.
No, wait, that’s not fair - to the Russian Navy. Here’s a Baltic Fleet Krivak in 1993. She actually looks pretty good … though a bit smokey.
Next time someone gives you some unnecessarily complicated explanation as to why the US Navy has severe recruiting problems, just stop them short and show them the picture of the WILLIAMS and ask them, “Would you want to serve in this Navy? Would you want your friends, family, or potential mate see you waving from this deck?”