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Yes, China has the largest navy in the world. That’s less important than you might think. – Diplomat


Since its release “Report on Chinese military strength 2020In September, much was created about China securing the title of “world’s largest navy”. In fact, the US Naval Intelligence Office confirmed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) has surpassed the US Navy in total warships, around 360 to 297, with predictions in the future thinks that the gap will increase. By 2025, PLAN is expected to dispatch up to 400 ships, while the United States only plans to deploy 355 ships. Such quantitative discussions have fueled a growing level of hysteria in the US media and even parts of the country’s foreign policy and defense facilities. .

What such discussions fundamentally misunderstand about the two fleets, however, is the vast difference in force structure as well as the incomparable differences in regional allies that the United States alone. maintenance. In fact, most discussions of PLAN’s size have exaggerated their fleet of surface warships by including small coastal patrol boats or amphibious transports and amphibious ships.

In descending order of size, the surface force of the PLAN is include including two aircraft carriers, a cruiser, 32 destroyers, 49 frigates, 37 escorts and 86 missile coastal patrol boats. In addition, China’s submarine fleet includes 46 diesel-powered attack submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines and four ballistic missile submarines. This is complemented by the China Coast Guard, which has around 255 coastal patrol boats. In total, China has a surface warship fleet of 121 ships, a submarine fleet of 56 platforms and another 341 coastal patrol boats.

For its part, the United States Navy prides itself on one surface fleet including 11 aircraft carriers, 92 cruisers and destroyers, as well as 59 small surface warships and combat logistics ships. Its submarine fleet consists of 50 attack submarines, 14 ballistic missile submarines and four cruise missile submarines. As such, the United States maintains a fleet of about 162 ships, depending on the inclusion of small combat ships and combat logistics ships, and a submarine fleet of 68 piers.

Here, we see clearly that talking about China’s enormous navy is a bit out of place. It should be noted that the Chinese fleet disproportionately relies on smaller classes of ships, such as frigates and corvettes, which many consider to be not the main surface combatants. Much of its numerical advantage, though, comes from coastal patrol boats that, while negligible, is limited in China’s ability to project power beyond the near seas. Furthermore, the United States maintains a major carrier advantage. Whenever people get into the debate over the viability of carriers, the reality is that both countries are interested in manufacturing. them.

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Even more troubling is the apparent defeat of America’s allies, often seen as fleeting reflections in discussions about the need for the United States to strengthen its maritime forces. troops. Clearly, increasing the navy is meant to reassure America’s regional allies. However, the naval forces of such allies are rarely part of the equation. At a time when much of the national security ethos of the United States insisted on “getting allies to pay them fair”, it was a rather paradoxical initiative.

For reference, China’s only official ally – North Korea – maintains a handful of submarines and coastal patrol boats. By contrast, the United States has formal military alliances with six Indo-Pacific countries – Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. Furthermore, many regional powers – particularly India, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam – maintain increasingly deep security ties with the United States due to concerns about potential threats. from china.

Although the United States remains the primary security guarantor for countries like Japan and South Korea, they are not completely powerless. In fact, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force maintains one the largest fleet of surface ships around the world, containing 51 main water surface combat forces. Similarly, South Korea’s navy has a total of 23 large warship, with specialized eyes extension. However, the role of allied fleets is hardly mentioned in the national security discourse of the United States.

All this does not mean that the United States should neglect its navy. Far from it, the US Navy is arguably the most important daily component of the US military on the international arena. Instead, I would encourage a greater degree of skepticism about discrete force targets. It will likely serve US interests better by shifting the focus to modernizing existing platforms and investing in developing new systems.

American analysts and commentators should remember that the United States is not alone in the face of concerns about China’s expanding naval force. That requires a massive expansion of the US Navy, especially with 500 ships, rarely acknowledging the roles and potential contributions of allies as surprising.

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