Monday, July 24, 2023

The End of a Naval Era - Vox Popoli

 After 80 years, the United States Navy is no longer the dominant naval power on Earth.

Moscow and Beijing conducted large-scale naval drills in the Sea of Japan this week, Russia’s Pacific Fleet announced in a statement to journalists on Sunday. The three-day exercise involved a wide range of activities, including joint firing drills, a simulated naval battle, and air defense training.

The ‘North/Cooperation-2023’ exercise was held over July 20-23, the fleet’s press service said. It involved two Russian anti-submarine war frigates and two Chinese destroyers, as well as a pair of both Russian corvettes and Chinese guard ships alongside a number of support vessels, the statement said.

A total of 30 aircraft from both nations also took part in the drills, the fleet said, adding that this included anti-submarine planes and helicopters, interceptors and other maritime aircraft, the fleet said. The two nations’ naval groups took part in some 20 combat exercises during the drills, it added.

The drills were aimed at “strengthening the naval cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China as well as maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region,” the statement said.

This is significant because it is a signal that the Russians and Chinese are now confident that their combined naval power rivals that of the USA. I expect it will not be too long now before China announces that the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits are off-limits, dares the USN to challenge the ban, and the USN subsequently backs down after mumbling some meaningless phrases about “the freedom of the seas”.

How can we be so certain that China is now a greater sea power than the USA? After all, while the USN has fewer ships than the PLN, it has the advantage of more experience, better quality ships, and more of the aircraft carriers that have been the heart of all naval power since 1941. The reason is twofold. First, as we’ve seen in Ukraine, air power is now vulnerable to air defense systems to a much greater extent than before. Any air strike from a carrier against a first-tier military target is likely to lose more than half the planes it launches.

Second, and more important, China can rapidly replace its naval losses in the event of a war. The USA cannot. In fact, China’s shipbuilding advantage over the USA now exceeds the historical advantage that the USA enjoyed over Japan in WWII by a considerable margin.

A U.S. Navy briefing slide is calling new attention to the worrisome disparity between Chinese and U.S. capacity to build new naval vessels and total naval force sizes. The data compiled by the Office of Naval Intelligence says that a growing gap in fleet sizes is being helped by China’s shipbuilders being more than 200 times more capable of producing surface warships and submarines. This underscores longstanding concerns about the U.S. Navy’s ability to challenge Chinese fleets, as well as sustain its forces afloat, in any future high-end conflict.

The most eye-catching component of the slide is a depiction of the relative Chinese and U.S. shipbuilding capacity expressed in terms of gross tonnage. The graphic shows that China’s shipyards have a capacity of around 23,250,000 million tons versus less than 100,000 tons in the United States. That is at least an astonishing 232 times greater than the United States.

Consider the implications of this massive capacity delta in light of the historic difference between US and Japanese manufacturing between 1942 and 1945.

Shipping Tonnage Produced, 1942 to 1945





Speaking of aircraft carriers, Japan was only able to build 9 carriers over the course of the war, some of which were never launched, while the US launched 120, many of which were surplus to requirements.

Aircraft produced, 1942 to 1945





And while it is theoretically possible for the US to signficantly expand its industrial capacity in order to reduce its disadvantage, the political, ideological, and demographic realities render that improbable to the point of total impossibility. The US corpocracy’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equality is actively reducing its current capabilities, which means there is no way it can reasonably be expected to expand them successfully.

I’d always thought that the end of US naval dominance would be the consequence of a Sicilian Expedition that resulted in the unexpected sinking of one or more aircraft carriers. But thanks to Ukraine and the offshoring of US industrial capacity, we appear to have passed that historical point in relative peace and without any fireworks.