Even though humans prefer to live on land, 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. It’s no wonder civilizations have been fighting over waterways and key water-based territories since before the Bronze Age because of the number of oceans, rivers, and lakes.
As a means of successfully occupying these regions, a few countries have built some impressive naval forces.
Is there a nation in history that had the most powerful navy?
The United States had the world’s biggest naval force during World War II. At its height, the United States Navy had 6,768 ships in service.
Since then, most nations have decreased the size of their fleets and replaced them with a smaller number of better-equipped vessels or other assets. After all, no future navy will have more ships than the United States had during WWII.
The following are the world’s 10 largest navies, as measured by the total number of warships and submarines they possessed in 2020:
- China – 777
- Russia – 603
- North Korea – 492
- United States – 490
- Colombia – 453
- Iran – 398
- Egypt – 316
- Thailand – 292
- India – 285
- Indonesia – 282
In the modern era of naval warfare, biggest does not always indicate strongest.
It’s important to remember that the information shown above might be deceptive. There’s a big difference between being big and strong. These ships may be part of any nation’s naval fleet, including many vessels, from rusty old patrol boats to the most advanced nuclear missile-armed submarines.
When calculating the total number of ships in a nation’s navy, these three distinct warships add up to one. Squirrels and rhinos aren’t the same; neither are scooters and 18-wheelers. The problem is that comparing navies simply based on their combined fleet size produces this result.
In addition, several sources have varied definitions of what constitutes a country’s fleet. For example, China’s navy has over 100 hovercraft, which some sources classify naval ships.
Non-commissioned ships, support vessels, reserve fleets, and even boats still under construction are all included in most contemporary navies, which some sources count while others do not.
A source’s handling of factors like these may significantly impact the overall number of ships in a country’s navy.
For example, according to the list’s creators, the U.S. Navy will have 490 ships in 2020, while China’s navy will have 777 vessels.
To put things in perspective, China had 355 ships, while the United States had only 293, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s official 2020 estimate. Where does the discrepancy come from? There’s a good chance that the Department of Defense’s assessment includes fewer ship classes.
As an illustration, over 100 non-commissioned support ships maintained by the U.S. Military Sealift Command aren’t included in the DoD study, which seems to omit 85 patrol combatants and vessels equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).
Other sources may comprise both of these categories as well as other ones.
Any estimate solely considering the number of ships available, without considering ship type or condition, will be woefully under-representative.
Some analysts use tonnage, a measure of a ship’s displacement of water or cargo capacity, as an indirect way of estimating a ship’s entire mass to better assess a navy’s overall strength.
World’s Top 10 Most Powerful Navies (based on total tonnage in 2014):
- United States – 3,415,893
- Russia – 845,739
- China – 708,886
- Japan – 413,800
- United Kingdom – 367,850
- France – 319,195
- India – 317,725
- South Korea – 178,710
- Italy – 173,549
- Taiwan – 151,662
The story these figures portray is still relevant, although they are due for an update. Many of North Korea’s ships are tiny, elderly, and designed for use in “brown water,” which means that they function best in bodies of water within 50 miles of shore.
As a result, North Korea does not make the top 10 list. Although North Korea’s navy possesses more ships than any other nation’s, it is still far from becoming a worldwide force in the maritime realm.
On the other hand, the fleets of nations such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and South Korea are smaller, but they include more modern and powerful boats.
Predictions for the future: the world’s top five fleets by 2030
Even if the here and now are crucial, some military experts are already looking forward. A NationalInterest.org article published in 2021 predicted the top five fleets of 2030, based on the present status of each country’s fleet, production/manufacturing plans, and total naval budget.
United States – A combination of sheer tonnage and technical improvement will keep the United States as the world’s preeminent naval force in 2030. The United States Navy possesses many ships, yet many are huge and state-of-the-art.
United Kingdom – There will be a drop in the number of British ships, but the acquisition of two new aircraft carriers and an upgrade of the submarine fleet will make the U.K. the second most powerful maritime force.
Also See: Largest Air Forces in the World 2022
China – Compared to the U.S. Navy fleet, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet is older, yet it has a far bigger number of ships (if not tonnage).
India – India will have three operational aircraft carriers by 2030, with a combined capacity of 110-120 aircraft, strengthening its naval footprint again in Asia.
Russia – The aging fleet of this superpower is likely to face some financial restrictions as older equipment is scrapped. However, Russia is still predicted to have eight ballistic missile submarines (each with 20 missiles) patrolling the waters in 2030. Russia.
|Country||Total Warships||Aircraft Carriers||Helicopter Carriers||Submarines||Destroyers||Frigates|
|United Arab Emirates||75|
|Republic of the Congo||6|
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