Weapon Systems

US Navy's power as global maritime force ensures worldwide trade


The US Navy ensures the integrity of global trade by controlling key waterways via its ability to rapidly deploy armed ships and to sustain operations over long periods of time.

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An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and an Independence-variant littoral combat ship conduct joint operations with a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the South China Sea on October 17. [US Navy]
An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and an Independence-variant littoral combat ship conduct joint operations with a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the South China Sea on October 17. [US Navy]

The US Navy is well established as the most powerful naval force in the world, with a sizable fleet of warships that are ready to deploy and protect global trade at a moment's notice.

The US Navy is the maritime service branch of the US armed forces and by some calculations is the largest and most capable amphibious force in the world.

The estimated tonnage of its active battle fleet is bigger than the next 13 navies combined, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in remarks at the Naval War College in Rhode Island in 2009. And 11 of those 13 are allies or partner nations.

China has the most ships of any country by number of hulls, the US Defense Department confirmed in a 2021 report on Beijing's armed forces.

The People's Liberation Army Navy has about 355 ships, accounting for "major surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, ocean-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, and fleet auxiliaries," according to the report.

As of July, the US Navy had a deployable combat force of 299 vessels.

However, the US Navy outpaces China with the size and power of its ships. The smallest US Navy warship has a displacement of 3,000 tons, and the median ship, a destroyer, has a displacement of 9,500 tons.

The total US Navy fleet displacement in 2021 was almost 6 million tons, according to a 2021 analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That sizable total includes the largest aircraft carrier fleet in the world, with 11 super carriers in service. The newest of those is the Navy's first-in-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

Built on the legacy of today's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the Ford-class carrier is the most advanced ship on the sea, ensuring the Navy remains ready for crisis response and early striking power in a major combat operation.

There are plans to grow the fleet even larger. The Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan, released in 2020, lays out plans to expand the fleet to at least 355 ships by 2049.

Maritime power

In addition to the overwhelming force of its fleet, the US Navy has the advantages of being a truly global maritime armed force.

By navigating ocean waters, which cover about 70% of the planet, the Navy has unique access to points of interest around the world and can project power far from the US mainland.

The Navy's mission is to "maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas."

Approximately 337,000 sailors are serving in the Navy with more than 90,000 reserve personnel. One third of the Navy is deployed and operating at all times.

The Navy's fleet of heavily armed warships has the remarkable ability to traverse thousands of kilometers in a matter of days and self-sustain for a long duration.

The ships can loiter in international waters for long periods. This versatility ensures that the United States can effectively respond to emerging threats and geopolitical challenges across the world's oceans.

The Navy also has more than 4,000 operational aircraft.

These combined advantages of the maritime force make the navy "an incredibly powerful tool, especially for responding to international crises," according to an analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The US Navy's dominance of the world's oceans has solidified its status as a guarantor of global trade. By ensuring the security of international shipping lanes and safeguarding the flow of goods, the Navy plays a critical role in underpinning the global economy.

As a result, the US Navy's unmatched capabilities remain a linchpin of foreign policy. With its massive fleet of ships and its ability for rapid deployment, the Navy offers stability and protection while facilitating the free exchange of goods and ideas on a global scale.

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We’re at a time when it’s true to say that it’s governed by force and by a strongman, and that whoever has a cannon is the king. What if those who spend money on weapons, killing and destruction spend it on what humanity needs in terms of supplies? This would be better. Hope those absent-minded will understand.