The declining size of Navies

uk 75

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Owning a collection of secondhand Janes Fighting ships from the 60s up to 2004 and more recent copies of Weyers Flottentaschenbuch I am struck by how with a very few notable exceptions (China) the world's navies have shrunk in size.
The RN built 26 Leander class frigates then only 13 Type 23s and now struggles to find money for 6 to 8 ships. Most European navies have seen similar reductions.
If this trend continues the RN in 2040 may only be able to afford 4 new destroyer/frigate ships. Or perhaps even none at all.
The same is true of course for Armies and Air Forces but the Navies are laid out annually in Janes which makes the comparison easier and starker
 

that_person

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The Cold War is over, and the public no longer sees the need for such a large fleet, or the government for that matter. The only people asking for a larger budget are the Brass in each nations respective high command.
 

Foo Fighter

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We all know what happened last time people thought this way. If we do not pay for defence now, heopefully before it's too late, we will pay much more for it later. Always giving hope to being ABLE to pay for it later. I for one do not like the thought of being ruled by the PRC but if we have no military force capable of defending us this is one possible future. What is your pleasure folks?
 

1635yankee

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Ships have become incredibly expensive, which is almost certainly the driving force to shrinking navies.
 

Archibald

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Yup. In the case of the French Navy: only one carrier, and not enough air defense ship to protect the fleet. The ships themselves are quite good, but not enough can be procured and the fleet is suffering.
 

EwenS

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What is worse is the length of time it takes to physically build anything due to the complexity (that is after the procurement process has run its course) and the small number of yards with the skillset to do it.
 

zen

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Complexification arises because Governments take the view "pay for this tomorrow not today", thus they push right (into the future balance sheet) the major decisions and costs.
Often this increases costs, but those are always not at the time of decisions and often set after the coming election. Making it a potential problem for a new incoming government.
Who obviously looks to defer the decisions and costs again.
 

Avimimus

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Most of the threats to trade are people operating in very small boats... and even when it isn't piracy the threat of trade interdiction in places like the Persian Gulf consists of ships which are well under 300 tons... the idea of blue water merchant raiding doesn't really exist.

Improving sensor technology, communications equipment, and stand-off weapons also mean that the ability to use ships to move thousands of troops to uncontested landing sites is reduced - landings require air-power for support or using small boats to move short distances along coastlines...

So what is the use of having a large number of large ships? To protect carriers or cruise-missile platforms for use with force-projection (or clearing a landing for marines)? Even hunting submarines is best done by a large number of smaller ships?

The only exception would be, say, if the United States decided they wanted to sink a bunch of Chinese ships to send a message about control over the western Pacific... or if they decided to sink the Russian navy over Syria... and not only would those types of actions (which would involve thousands of deaths to send a political message that could be done through things like tariffs) - they'd also involve going to war with another nuclear power.
 

riggerrob

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As ships develop more sophisticated sensors, they can scan wider areas. This leads to the logic that more can be done with fewer ships. Politicians love the "fewer ships" logic because it frees up tax dollars for other projects ... usually civilian.

Another factor is that sophisticated sensors require sophisticated human operators ... better educated ... better paid ... shorter hours on duty ... better food ... better bunks ... better opportunities on civvy street. Hence personnel costs often exceed fuel costs in the better Western navies.
Unfortunately, all those sophisticated sensors are expensive, limiting the number than can be sent to sea.
It is a deadly budget spiral that rushes to the bottom ... pun intended.

As for Communist China being the only navy to expand their fllet ... China has traditionally been a land power that lookd inward ... at most meddling with other Asian countries. However, now they seem to fully exploited their land resources, so now are extending their reach into the South China Sea to strip-mine fish and minerals. At their current rate, China will finish strip-mining the SCS in 20 or 30 years, but the China's current leaders do not acre because they will be retired by then.
 

Foo Fighter

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The problem is one of totalitarianism. It always leads to conflict, even if only to keep their drones in line. Hence the pillage of war graves in the area.
 

muttly

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Navy's are expensive to build and upkeep is a nightmare.
Plus the constant of trying to have the right ship designs.
Ships are manpower hungry as well, but are the only way
to project power over distance.
 

1635yankee

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Another problem is demographics. In a developed country, only about 1% of the population enters military age every year. Obviously, you can't have more than fraction (maybe 5 percent, tops) of that go into professional military service, and full-time military personnel are expensive, so they all have to be supported by the people who don't go into the military.
 

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