Old and New World Powers

BERLIN | | usachina

BERLIN (Own report) - German naval experts are predicting a dramatic shift over the next twenty years in the balance of power between the world's leading naval forces. Whereas the naval capabilities of several countries in East and Southeast Asia are growing considerably, those of the US are shrinking slightly. European naval units, including those of Germany, have to expect drastic declines due not only to the current Euro crisis, but due also to the fact that NATO countries have to invest huge amounts in their ongoing interventions and their forces deployed on the ground in Afghanistan, according to an analysis published in the recent edition of the "MarineForum" journal. The "'Champions league' of naval armament" is playing today in the "Asian Pacific realm." Beyond a doubt, the "most important change in the maritime interplay of forces between the old and new world powers" is "the field of tension between the massive growth of the Chinese Navy and the further shrinking of the US Navy." In the future, Europe will have no decisive role to play in the rivalry of naval forces, according to the analysis.

Perspective 2030

The analysis, written by an expert of the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (BWB) and published in the current issue of the "MarineForum" journal, compares the development of the world's navies. One yardstick is the number of vessels ("units") at the disposal of each navy. Due to important differences in the capabilities of warships, the author calculates a specific capability index coefficient for each navy, allowing a comparison of their respective capabilities. A smaller number of vessels could thereby have larger capabilities. The comparison not only takes into account the existing number of vessels but also those already commissioned and those in planning, but not yet in the phase of realization during the next twenty years. The comparison also includes vessels to be scrapped by 2030 - a predictable number, according to the author. According to the analysis, only 18 of the world's 120 to 130 navies can be called "important" in regards to their capabilities.[1] These 18 navies consist of over two thirds of all currently existing units and are "primarily globally oriented."[2]

US Navy: "Slight Shrinking"

The US Navy has by far, the largest navy, with its 511 units and a capability index coefficient of 645.7.[3] In spite of its ambitious arms programs, the USA will not be able to maintain its naval forces at the current level, predicts the analysis. The US Navy has been slightly shrinking since early 1990 and this will most likely continue. The author of the analysis predicts that by 2030, the US Navy will have 450 units and also a capability index coefficient of 450. The US Navy will, in the future, no longer be competing with its main long-time rival, the Russian Navy. By 2030, the Russian Navy, due to its numerous outdated vessels, will experience a drop from its present 298 units to 50 and from its present 247.4 capability index coefficient to 50, according to the analysis. The former naval world power will therefore be "at the threshold of the naval forces of the medium-sized powers" and will fall even behind Turkey.

China: "More Globally Oriented"

The author places emphasis on the particular importance of the Chinese Navy. In spite of its large number of vessels (493), it only has one fourth of the capabilities of the US Navy (167.0). But Beijing is accelerating its naval modernization. Its aircraft carrier programs, the "expansion of its amphibious component with large landing crafts" and its participation in the international ("War on Piracy") deployment at the Horn of Africa are all "indicators of a more global orientation of the Chinese Navy." It must be seen, "if the creation of a powerful logistical component, indispensible for global operations, will follow." But it can be expected that by 2030, the People's Republic of China will have over 550 vessels, reaching a capability index coefficient of 300. With a continued Chinese growth, writes the author, the US Navy and Beijing's fleet would be "on a par in about 30 to 50 years."

India: "China's Antagonist"

The author of the analysis is also expecting arms efforts from China's Asian rivals. Even though Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia will not, in all cases, increase the number of their vessels, they will definitely enhance their naval capabilities. This also applies to India: "As China's future antagonist on the world scene, that country is seeking to significantly enhance its naval capabilities." The author predicts that by 2030, the above mentioned countries will rank from three to five and eleven (Australia) behind the USA and China on its list of the world's most powerful naval forces.[4] The German warship building industry is also profiting from this arms race.

Europe: "Significant Shrinking"

But Europe, according to this analysis, is falling far behind in this naval arms race. The author writes that the French Navy will shrink about 45 percent; the British naval forces could even lose up to two-thirds of their units and capabilities. The Italian fleet will also shrink. Only Spain could possibly maintain its standing, if it is not sucked into the Euro crisis. Greece has to save funds and cut its fleet in half, therefore losing rank 13, falling far behind on the list of the world's most powerful navies. The German navy will also shrink. Because it has to finance the war in Afghanistan, deployment of the ground troops and air transport, Berlin has little leeway left for new vessels. By 2030, Germany will lose about 45 percent of its vessels and one-third of its naval capabilities. All the navies of the EU combined, will have approximately the same number of vessels as the US Navy, but only half its naval capabilities.

A New Arms Race

The international balance of power between the world's leading naval forces will clearly shift in favor of the Pacific. By 2030, a rising Chinese Navy will face a shrinking US Navy. But the US Navy can draw upon strong allies - India, Japan, South Korea and Australia. In this naval race, Europe will lose its powerful position. It is China that is posing the decisive questions, according to the analysis: whether the Chinese Navy should continue its primarily regional orientation or rather orients itself globally. "The latter would be", writes the author, "a remake of the arms race between the US Navy and the 'Russian bear' under Admiral Gorshkov in the 1980s." At that time, the Soviet Union was in decline. In 20 years, the United States could be in a similar situation, according to several observers.[5]

[1] Die 18 "bedeutenden" Marinen gehören in der Reihenfolge ihrer "Fähigkeiten": 1. USA, 2. Russland, 3. China, 4. Großbritannien, 5. Japan, 6. Frankreich, 7. Indien, 8. Türkei, 9. Südkorea, 10. Italien, 11. Taiwan, 12. Deutschland, 13. Griechenland, 14. Spanien, 15. Australien, 16. Kanada, 17. Nordkorea, 18. Brasilien.
[2] Zitate hier und im Folgenden aus: Christian Peters: Trendanalyse zur weltweiten Flottenentwicklung. Rasante Phase des Wandels und grundlegender Veränderung, MarineForum 12/2010
[3] Der Autor schreibt über den Index: "Die Bezugsgröße für diese Normierung ist eine moderne Fregatte, also ein Überwasser-Kampfschiff mit 'dreidimensionalen' Fähigkeiten (Luftverteidigung, Überwasserseekrieg, U-Boot-Jagd). Definitionsgemäß ergibt sich für diesen Schiffstyp der Referenzwert von 1,0". Weitere Referenztypen: Flugzeugträger (60.000 t) = 6,0; nukleares Jagd-U-Boot = 3,0; Zerstörer (7.500 t) = 2,0; Hubschrauberträger (20.000 t) = 0,5; Korvette (2.000 t) = 0,4; Patrouillenschiff (4.000 t) = 0,15.
[4] Die 14 "bedeutenden" Marinen des Jahres 2030 werden nach dem Urteil der MarineForum-Analyse folgenden Staaten gehören: 1. USA, 2. China, 3. Japan, 4. Indien, 5. Südkorea, 6. Frankreich, 7. Russland, 8. Türkei, 9. Taiwan, 10. Italien, 11. Australien, 12. Großbritannien, 13. Spanien, 14. Deutschland.
[5] see also Europe's Decline