US Navy has too few ships as China and Russia modernize their force

Sailors assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Doyle (FFG 39) stand in prayer during the ship's decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Mayport. Doyle, named in honor of Vice Adm. James H. Doyle, has been in service with the U.S. Navy since May 1983. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr.

The US Navy is coming to terms with the fact that it will need more ships to counter near-peer threats from nations such as China and Russia- and the issue isn’t so easy to solve.

As the “counter-insurgency” mission of the War on Terror gives way to potential World Wars with more capable adversaries, the US Navy is faced with an issue- as the only branch flexible enough to quickly challenge land-grabs by Russia and China, the world’s finest naval armada is considerably smaller than it used to be.

In recent years, the US Navy decommissioned large numbers of warships, particularly from 2012 to 2015, when then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus cut the number of ships to only 271- a far cry from the “600-ship Navy” doctrine of olde.

Meanwhile, the Russians and Chinese began modernization programs, with Russia pushing for modernization of anti-ship missiles and submarines. In China, the push for aircraft carriers and an anti-ship missile network is a priority, though the number of amphibious landing ships has grown considerably (once again stoking fears of a potential invasion of Taiwan). Both navies have grown in size, though not quite to US numbers.

According to National Interest, the US Navy’s carrier strike group model has been adopted by the Chinese, and the “Middle Nation” plans to have at least 5 carrier strike fleets assembled by 2035.

With its current force spread thin, the US Navy may find itself struggling to maintain dominance where needed around the globe. Furthermore, a US Naval presence is often the tip of the spear when it comes to diplomacy, acting as armed ambassadors to the world.

With eyes on unseating the US from its position as the world’s sole hyperpower, China is turning to the seas in order to expand its borders and influence, from taking over the Spratly Islands to sailing forces to Africa.

As the old adage goes- those who control the seas control everything.

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