chapter  3
19 Pages

The Us Navy

The United States Navy is the most powerful conventional and nuclear naval force in the world, with state-of-the-art technologies that span platforms, sensors and weapons. It possesses a huge qualitative and quantitative advantage over all other naval forces in the world, and its carrier strike groups are several orders of magnitude more potent than those of its nearest rivals. The US Navy is actually composed of two quite distinct core identities: the navy itself and the US Marine Corps. As of 2011, 330,065 sailors serve in the US Navy, with 6,229 active reservists; the US Marine Corps has 204,056 marines, with 2,930 active reservists.1 Furthermore, in times of war, a third element, the US Coast Guard, also comes under the authority of the US Navy. The numbers serving in the US Navy and US Marine Corps have fluctuated to a significant degree during the course of the Global War on Terror. In 2004, for example, the US Navy had 376,750 all-volunteer sailors serving in its fleets and the US Marine Corps had 175,350 marines: thus in a matter of seven years there has been a major drop in the size of the navy and a sizeable increase in the Marine Corps. This reflects the demands of the Global War on Terror, which has required larger numbers of ground forces operating in challenging counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, with less need for dedicated sea-based naval personnel. Notwithstanding the reduction in numbers, the US Navy remains a powerful institution; this is reflected in its possession of 11 aircraft carriers, of which ten belong to the advanced nuclear-powered Nimitz class, the largest warships in existence, with a displacement of almost 100,000 tons and 60 or more aircraft.2 The first of the latest generation of aircraft carrier, the Gerald R Ford class, is already under construction and anticipated to be handed over to the navy in 2015.3 The US Navy has the strength and the funding to engage in every aspect of naval warfare: surface, sub-surface, air and land operations. Its overall force structure offers evidence of institutional preferences for particular technologies with regard to naval warfare. In other words, emphasis on one dimension, such as ships, for instance, would indicate which aspect of the maritime environment the US Navy has a greater liking for. Such an analysis reveals that the US Navy has deliberately chosen a balanced fleet with high-end capabilities in every role at sea and on land.