The U.S. Navy’s USS Reagan (CVN-76), USS Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS Nimitz carrier (CVN-68) fleets and the South Korean Navy exercise together in the Western Pacific, Nov. 12, 2017. (U.S. Navy)
The United States is the only country in the world that implements a global military strategy. The U.S. military has pushed its lines of defense far from the homeland, truly defending itself from enemies, and has also assumed responsibility for maintaining stability in all regions, deterring regional military conflicts, and gaining the approval of most countries. As a result, the United States has the largest number of military allies in the world, which also ensures the implementation of a global strategy that significantly amplifies the U.S. military’s ability to deploy and operate with mobility. Of course, the U.S. military is first and foremost the most powerful force in the world, ranked number one on the Global Firepower scale.
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The U.S. Navy’s constant presence at sea level around the world has become a symbol of U.S. military global strategy. Maintaining the world’s number one naval power is a fundamental principle followed by the modern U.S. military. With approximately 330,000 men on active duty and 110,000 in reserve, the U.S. Navy is certainly the largest in the world, boasting not only the largest fleet, but also a formidable air force, and a 3,500-strong special forces unit, the Navy Seals.
The U.S. Navy’s main warships include 11 aircraft carriers, 9 amphibious assault ships, 23 dock landing ships, 22 cruisers, 70 destroyers, 21 littoral combat ships, and 68 submarines. The Navy has been the largest player in all major U.S. military operations around the world.
I. Aircraft Carriers
The U.S. has 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, one of the latest Ford-class carriers still in series testing, one under construction, one under contract, and one under planning. According to the rotation maintenance and overhaul cycle arrangement, 10 to 11 aircraft carriers can meet the U.S. military’s year-round global deployment.
The 100,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the second-generation nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy, has an average cost of about $8.5 billion, is equipped with four elevators, four steam catapults and four blocking cables, and can eject a warplane every 20 seconds at the fastest.
The carrier is equipped with various types of radar, guidance, and electric warfare systems; the main weapons are 16 or 24 Sea Sparrow missiles, 3 or 4 near-force intensive array fast guns or rolling body missiles (RIM-116) for air defense and missile defense.
The carrier carries 85 to 90 aircraft of various types, including 48 to 60 F/A-18 Hornet attack aircraft, the latest F-35C stealth fighters have begun to be assigned; 4 to 6 EA-18G Growler electric fighters; 4 to 6 E-2C/D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft; the rest are various anti-submarine, search and rescue, special task helicopters and transport aircraft.
The F/A-18 Hornet can carry air-to-air missiles including the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Missile, AIM-7 Sparrow missile, AIM-9 Rattlesnake missile; can carry anti-ship missiles including AGM-158C long-range supersonic missile, AGM-84 Harpoon missile; can carry ground attack missiles including AGM-158 Joint Off-Range Missile, AGM-154 Joint Off-Theater Weapons, AGM-65 Maverick missile, AGM-88 anti-radar missile, and various types of bombs, including nuclear bombs.
The latest Ford-class carriers incorporate many new technologies, such as electromagnetic catapults, and extensive automation equipment that significantly reduces crew size.
The carrier escort fleet includes at least one Ticonderoga-class cruiser, two to three Burke-class destroyers, and two to three Virginia-class or Los Angeles-class attack submarines, constituting a complete offensive and defensive system.
The U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52, right) and Burke-class destroyer USS Berry (DDG-52, left) cruise in the South China Sea, April 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy)
The U.S. Army’s 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers and 69 Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the S.H.I.E.L.D. combat system, commonly known as S.H.I.E.L.D. ships. The S.H.I.E.L.D. combat system can integrate all the anti-submarine, anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons of surface ships, and unify management and operations according to the war situation. S.H.I.E.L.D. ships can either escort aircraft carriers or perform independent missions.
The Ticonderoga-class cruisers are the battle command center of the carrier escort fleet and have the most powerful anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-missile capabilities themselves. The cruisers have a full load displacement of 9,800 tons and two Mark 41 vertical launch systems, each with 61 missile tubes, for a total of 122 missile storage and launch tubes, and can carry Tomahawk surface-to-surface cruise missiles, Standard surface-to-air missiles, Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine guided rockets, in addition to eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The Burke-class destroyers, ranging in tonnage from 8,315 tons in the early days to 9,800 tons at present, also have comprehensive anti-submarine, anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities, and are equipped with 90 to 96 vertical missile tubes, as well as a variety of missiles, and are testing onboard laser weapons.
The Jowat-class destroyer is the latest U.S. development of a multifunctional stealth destroyer with a displacement of 15,995 tons, the world’s largest destroyer currently installed with more advanced automation equipment and a potential crew of only 147, with three ships currently built and one nearing completion of testing.
The U.S. amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) and Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jets in a joint exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 20, 2020. (U.S. Navy)
Third, the amphibious assault ship
The U.S. Navy has two amphibious assault ships American class and seven Wasp class, which can use a large number of helicopters to drop troops; through the long deck can also carry F-35B warplanes, up to 20, transformed into a light aircraft carrier.
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ships have a displacement of 41,150 tons and can transport 1,894 Marines, as well as air cushion landing craft, mechanized landing craft, amphibious combat vehicles, tanks, howitzers and other support vehicles.
The standard mix of aircraft on board is six F-35B stealth fighters and 24 other helicopters of various types. The attack portfolio is 22 or more V-22 Fish Hawk tilt-rotor helicopters for rapid air delivery of forces. The sea control portfolio is 20 F-35B stealth fighters and 6 helicopters.
The America-class amphibious assault ship is the newest U.S. amphibious assault ship, displacing 45,693 tons, and may also serve as a dock landing ship in the future.
The U.S. Army also has 11 San Antonio-class amphibious dock landing ships with a displacement of 25,300 tons, which can carry hovercraft, amphibious combat vehicles, and Marines; eight Whidbey Island-class ships in service; and four Ferry-class ships.
The first Liberty-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Liberty (LCS-1, left) and Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence (LCS-2, right) maneuver together off the coast of Southern California, May 2, 2012. (U.S. Navy)
IV. Littoral Combat Ship
The Liberty-class battleship is a small to medium-sized littoral combat ship developed in the 21st century with an eye toward a future distributed, rapid combat concept. With a displacement of 3,500 tons, a maximum speed of 47 knots (87 km/h), a stealthy design, stealth paint, highly automated equipment, and a core crew of only 40 personnel, plus a dedicated task force of 75 personnel and aviation personnel. Equally equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, as well as a 150 kW high-energy laser weapon. Ten Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships have been in service.
The Independence-class combat ship is another littoral combat ship with a displacement of 3,104 tons and a stable trimaran design, becoming a high-speed warship with a speed of about 50 knots (93 km/h); it also adopts a stealthy structural design with anti-submarine, mine, surface and special warfare mission modules that can be quickly converted to achieve versatility.
The Independence-class combat ships have a similar primary armament to the Freedom-class, with 11 ships currently in service. The Independence-class combat ships and the Freedom-class combat ships are the U.S. Navy’s exploration of new naval warfare concepts. The U.S. military has also been developing unmanned ships and unmanned submarines.
The U.S. Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN-741) test-fires a Trident II (D5LE) missile off the coast of San Diego, California, on Feb. 12, 2020. (U.S. Navy)
All U.S. submarines are nuclear-powered and are divided by function into strategic nuclear submarines and attack submarines.
1.Strategic nuclear submarines
The Ohio-class nuclear submarine is the main body of the U.S. nuclear strike force, carrying more than half of the U.S. active nuclear warheads, with a total of 18 built. After the Cold War, the U.S. retained only 14 of them, while the remaining four were converted to attack submarines.
The Ohio-class submarines displace 18,750 tons, have nuclear reactors that can operate for about 15 years between overhauls, and can each be armed with 24 Trident II missiles, each carrying 8 to 12 nuclear warheads with a yield of 475,000 tons and a range of more than 12,000 kilometers; the Trident missiles have been successfully launched at least 178 times.
The next generation of Columbia-class strategic nuclear submarines is under planning and development.
- Attack Submarines
The Virginia-class submarine is the newest U.S. attack submarine, primarily used in naval warfare, with 19 in service, nine under construction, and two reserved. The Virginia class submarine is the first submarine to utilize photonic sensors instead of traditional periscopes, and the S9G nuclear reactor core life is estimated to be 33 years. The submarines have different types of sonar arrays for all-round detection of enemy movements while maintaining optimum silence themselves.
Displacing 7,900-10,200 tons, the Virginia-class submarines are equipped with 12 missile tubes and four torpedo tubes and can carry Tomahawk ground attack missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, as well as special operations forces and unmanned underwater downloaders.
Sixty-two Los Angeles-class submarines were built, with 28 still in service. The Virginia-class submarines are gradually replacing the Los Angeles-class submarines, which launched hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles against Iraqi land-based military installations during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The Seawolf-class attack submarine was the successor to the Los Angeles-class submarine, designed to hunt down and kill former Soviet nuclear submarines, then costing $3 billion and considered the quietest nuclear submarine, and was replaced by the lower-cost Virginia-class submarine after only three were produced after the Cold War. The Seawolf-class submarines were equipped with eight 660 mm torpedo tube tubes and could carry up to 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles or Harpoon missiles.
After the Cold War, the United States converted four Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs) into attack submarines (SSGNs), each carrying up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and also carrying 66 special operations personnel.
An assortment of U.S. Naval Air Forces 5th Wing carrier aircraft fly over the aircraft carrier USS Reagan (CVN-76), Oct. 9, 2019. (U.S. Navy)
The U.S. Navy is divided into six fleet regions by global geographic location, namely the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Fleets; there is also a Tenth Fleet, which is also the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, responsible for naval combat control, coordination, and various cyber, electronic and information operations and space domain intelligence.
The Seventh Fleet, which is the largest in scale, usually has 50 to 70 surface warships and submarines of various types and about 150 aircraft, including the Reagan aircraft carrier based in Japan, the Roosevelt aircraft carrier deployed on a mobile basis, 10 to 14 SHIELD ships, 8 to 12 submarines, and 4 amphibious landing ships; in addition to carrier-based aircraft, it also includes 16 to 20 land-based reconnaissance aircraft.
Each fleet is also coordinated and governed by the corresponding theater command, and the Navy’s warships can be deployed among different fleets and theaters at any time.
The U.S. Navy is the largest implementer of global strategy, with more aircraft carriers than all other nations combined, and usually has two to three carrier fleets deployed in the front, capable of responding to regional military conflicts at any time. The U.S. fleet can be resupplied at military bases around the world, as well as in allied ports or through a large number of supply ships, ensuring continuous deterrence and operational capability.
The U.S. military also has the largest number of amphibious warships in the world, providing strong support for Marine expeditions at all times. The U.S. Navy won the Pacific naval war and the Atlantic escort anti-submarine war in World War II, and has had few rivals since the Cold War, and its combat experience and training subjects have been referred to and emulated by other countries.
The U.S. Navy has about 3,900 aircraft of all kinds, second only to the U.S. Air Force and the Chinese and Russian air forces, in addition to carrier-based aircraft, ashore reconnaissance aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, patrol aircraft, etc., constituting a strong air intelligence, early warning, control, command and combat system, with significant advantages in the global hotspots.
The U.S. military’s strategic nuclear submarines are a key part of the U.S. trinity of nuclear strike forces and have remained a world leader.
The U.S. military has targeted the future of naval warfare and has successfully explored decentralized and miniaturized operational models such as coastal combat ships, and is also actively exploring new areas such as unmanned ships, unmanned aircraft joint warfare and radar weapons. The U.S. Navy will maintain global control of naval power and continue to serve as the primary executor of U.S. global strategy. (To be continued)