To what extent are navies more or less useful then pre 1945.The use of Navies is like the waves in the ocean, it’s usefulness rising and failing like the waves. We have fought battles on the sea for more than 3,000 years. Navies, the branch of the armed services of a state which conducts military operations at sea has been used for a variety of purposes over hundreds if not thousands of years. This branch is still constantly evolving, it ranges from protection, support, dominance or exploration to name but a few. How ever a turning point which changed the extent of a navies use was world war two. Navies now have a greater impact then they once did, we now use the seas more then ever. To assert dominance, carry out peace keeping operations, carry nuclear weapons and to protect our oceans, Navies are now more useful then they once were and 1945 can be a good year to signify the change. It is important to remember though they don’t currently play a vital role in some some areas. We now have more options in warfare outside of the ocean and it is important to take these in to account. This plays a huge factor in seeing the extent of how much more useful a Navy is in the new and modern world. So what are the differences between now and pre 1945?
Countries and nations are seeing huge growth when looking at the sea in a wide range of areas, from additional food to energy resources. An example of this is that according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, they have found that beef has been overtaken by farmed fish production. We have seen infrastructure in our oceans grow rapidly in the last few decades. Fish farming, oil/gas drilling at sea and modern alternative energy production like wind and wave, has led us to see a massive increase in the infrastructure at sea. The 169MW wind farm in the Atlantic sea of the coast of Galway is a prominent example of this along with the new floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) units.The computer or paper you are reading this on was most likely floating across our ocean at some stage of its life. 97% of trade by weight is transported through merchant shipping. If a country can create or manufacture something for itself the country will look at the global maritime trading system. The price of transporting these on the sea is astoundingly low, a single cent could bring a t-shirt to most ports in the world. Where we make items and where we find the natural resources for products is becoming less important down to this low cost. This has caused most countries economies to be intimately linked with the sea. This has been continuously rising over the last century. This low cost and ease of movement has led to companies to keep low amounts of storage of their products. This has caused us to rely heavily on this sea trade. This reliance has made it a huge target which could cause huge consequences if it was targeted and disrupted. There is a great need for ships to be able to sail through waters undisturbed. Our countries Navies do this.
It is important to note the piracy is making an alarming comeback. In 2017 during the first three months, two vessels were hijacked by pirates of the coast of Somalia. This was an area where no merchant ship had been hijacked in the previous five years. Also the region there has seen further instances. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre there has been four further instance of attempted hijacking of ships. The Horn of Africa’s situation is one of various areas which has seen a rise in threats which need a naval response to keep the world trade moving.An area however which limits the extent to which Navies are useful is flight. Before 1945 a navy was normally the only practical way to move across any open water. The first plane was discovered in 1903 and in the years leading up to 1945 we saw a major development in them. How ever it was still a lot more useful to use the sea. They were not as technologically advance as their present counterparts. One aspect is cargo hold and size. The largest German military transport aircraft of world war two was the ME 323 GIGANT, with a maximum payload of 12 T. This just wasn’t able to meet the current need of that time.
Compare this to today with aircraft like the modern Antonov An-124 Ruslan which has a maximum payload of 150 T. The cargo hold of this strategic airlifter can carry virtually any load, including virtually all Russian armored combat vehicles, helicopters, and other oversized cargo. Pre 1945 aircraft just couldn’t transport essential cargo for forces. The German flying branch recently flew Stryker armored vehicles from Germany to Latvia during a war game called Steadfast Javelin II(1). This route is easily navigable through the Baltic sea however the German force felt that the sea was less useful. The sea used to be the only viable option. However due to the continuous developments in aircraft, now an aircraft can be used instead of ships in more areas and for more missions. Some missions once only achievable by sea can now be done out of the water. It is also important to look at the improvements on land then at sea compared with pre 1945. Since 1945 and even in the years before we have seen major leaps in the infrastructure on our earth. We have also seen this in ports for our ships however there has being a greater benefit on land compared to the sea. Highways have been springing up everywhere continuously over Europe, the Northern American Continent, Asia and the middle east. This isn’t encompassing everywhere. The building of motorways, bridges and tunnels cutting through our landscape transporting us at quicker times has and will still cut down journeys times while offering new routes once not achievable on land. For example, in Europe the first major act to improve transport was a joint UN declaration to build main International Traffic Arteries was in the 1950s. Pre 1950 there was no great motorway which armies could use to move across the world. We now have a motorway system of 55641 kms (7) in Europe alone. These lands routes can even be cheaper then the sea while being considerably quicker depending on terrain. And with this continuous rise of infrastructure on land used for transporting goods, new routes are becoming more practical and useful then the sea and this wasn’t the case before.
It is clearly evident that we don’t have to rely on the sea as much as we once did for military transport or any other operations. It is important to remember though that the sea is still the most economically viable and most common form of transport for militaries to use. The sea still does offer many benefits. Ships are a lot more mobile then their land counterparts. They also leave no footprint so it can be very hard for countries to determine where they came from, where they are and where they are going. This still makes it more practical to use then the sea when possible but this is an area which has not changed the extent to which Navies are more useful.Continuous innovation has created unprecedented major technological advancements which has led to new ways to wage war, this is giving states more options and new means to operate on and of the planet. A major aspect of naval warfare is to inflict damage and pre 1945 this was one of the most practical ways to do so. In the years following the end of world world two, two emerging global superpowers Russia and America looked at new ways to fight. Both countries invested massively in finding new ways to engage in warfare. This saw heavy investment in space and an arms race developed between the two emerging global super powers. A new fourth face of war was found, space. This has caused the extent in which we rely and use our navies to change. It was now more important then ever to be able to have and operate missiles that could travel directly across the globe and hit anywhere on the planet. We have five countries in the present day that can hit any place on earth with a missile. Not only this but the damage they can cause doing this is extremely destructive. We now have five countries whose actions could wipe out the entire planet or any part of this earth. We no longer need to be with in our enemies’ waters to strike, some states don’t even have to move a single vessel at all. However, countries have also manipulated the sea during this race.
Countries rely on the concept of a nuclear triad. This is where the country has two fail safes, so as the advancements made in missiles and nuclear technology progressed, the Navy was brought with it. Nuclear submarines work alongside nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear stealth bombers. Nuclear submarines are arguable the most feared weapon we have developed and the most feared in the nuclear triad. The current generation of nuclear submarines don’t ever need to be refueled in their twenty-five year lifespans. They are also almost undetectable. These weapons could be lurking in the waters of your enemy without them ever knowing. This alone shows us that we still rely on the sea as much as we did pre 1945 to cause and inflict damage on our enemies when it is warranted.Not only is the technology we use constantly evolving but so are the threats we face and how we can best deal with them like just mentioned. Britain’s greatest threat was and still is a conventional warfare attack on its people, it was believed that the next war ‘will be like the last one and I believe our resources will be more profitably employed in the air & on the sea than in building up great armies.” Neville Chamberlain said on the 7th February 1936. This is still the same, how ever now one of Britain’s greatest threat from its enemies is terrorism.
Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, said the UK had seen “a dramatic upshift in the threat”(6). This threat landscape continues to evolve, more so out of the water. Now a wide range of significant risks arise for key national infrastructure. This is including energy, transport, telecoms systems and financial systems(2) Europol currently judges the risk of cyber-terrorism to be one of high potential. This is an issue of growing concern at EU and international levels.(3) From pre 1945 to this day groups or states cause damage to there enemies through economic measures. With the rise of technology, we have more options to damage certain areas at our disposal. If a country wanted to damage the economy of a country, as history has shown us a blockade was normally the most practical way to do so. We can now cause damage online, creating ways for countries to cause havoc without investing in a navy. In 2008, cyber attacks moved from personal computers to government institutions. On August 27, 2008 NASA confirmed a worm had been found on laptops in the International Space Station; three months later Pentagon computers were hacked, allegedly by Russian hackers(4). We now live in an age where a navy is not the only useful way to damage a countries economy or security. We can do this both visibly or invisibly through new means like cyberspace. Showing us an area where navies have not become more useful.A huge benefit to using a Naval force in modern warfare is that we have new missions with new different objectives that are not the same, not what they once were. Mission creep is a factor. The way countries have ‘won’ wars has changed. We are no longer just fighting conventionally. We now see countries entering conflicts to assert their view on the societal landscape. They want the country run a certain way by certain means. They are no longer looking to take the country over like Britain did with all of her colonies, the focus is shifting towards reducing the suffering and conflict in other countries. Like the blue line separating Lebanon and Israel.
There is no longer a clear victor. This change in focus of countries entering conflicts has also changed the way in which we enter these conflicts. This is predominantly made up by the use of navies.The use of a Navy in modern mission can reduce the footprint a country has. This has many benefits. Countries can get away with having a less troops on the ground but more troops ready to respond. This can help control escalation while still acting as a deterrent. Not only this but it also puts less troops in harms way. They don’t have to be living on the front line to show their presence. Missions like this are continuing to grow and can be one of the factors for the shift in resources towards aircraft carriers and troop carriers instead of armored vehicles and grand troops. This evolution has changed the way we fight.The co-ordination of work in the Mediterranean of European Naval forces has during the migration crisis saved thousands of lives and this is till ongoing. There has been at least one ship stationed in the south-central Mediterranean since April 2015. This has been a part of the international effort to disrupt human trafficking and smuggling and to also save lives. N.A.T.O. also provides support to the Greek and Turkish coastguards through countries naval forces. Private ships will hopefully provide support and assistance to nearby boats in distress, but we shouldn’t leave it up to them. Ultimate responsibility should be with those who are well trained and equipped like our different navies across the globe. This role of undertaking humanitarian missions at seas is vital and is now more important then ever. This is one area which has made Navies more useful then pre 1945.
The last area I would like to explore is how navies are used to assert dominance.Finally, nothing conveys strategic intent as effectively as the big conventional warship. The mere presence of powerful destroyers and frigates brimming with cutting-edge armament and sensors can provide a navy with a decisive psychological advantage in strategic scenarios. It isn’t sheer happenstance, navalists point out, that China has been deploying Type 054A guided-missile frigates(equipped with the YJ-83 anti-ships missiles) and submarines for anti-piracy duties in the Indian Ocean. By sending its most modern combatants for low-spectrum security tasks, Beijing has sought to stamp its political will on the South Asia littorals. By the same token, the U.S. has been unapologetic about deploying its aircraft carriers for humanitarian assistance duties in the Western Pacific, even as it has chosen to deploy its littoral combat ships for functional tasks that can be performed by smaller assetsIndia’s maritime managers realize that in the new world, regional perceptions define maritime strategy. Since perception management is a key ingredient of maritime diplomacy, the Indian navy must rely on aircraft carriers and large destroyers for power-projection in the Indian Ocean. This includes capabilities that are used more to attain strategic leverage than actually fight full-scale wars. Given the fractious nature of geopolitics in maritime Asia, big warships aptly exemplify India’s growing geopolitical ambitions. Regardless of what the skeptics might then say, the super destroyers are here to stay. Like the waves it is clear that the use of navies and the extent of this continuously changed. This is even seen in across different aspects of the Navy. While there are some aspects of a Navy which is decreasing in its usefulness Navy’s have still become more useful overall. The extent to which we now rely on them has also grown and this will only ever continue.
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