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World-Wide Destroyers and Cruisers

Speaking at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition on May 03, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, said "" ... as much as the U.S. battle fleet has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, the rest of the world's navies have shrunk even more. ... Seventy-nine Aegis-equipped combatants carry roughly 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells. In terms of total missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies. All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet - a proxy for overall fleet capabilities - exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners. ... the Navy will need numbers, speed, and the ability to operate in shallow water, especially as the nature of war in the 21st century pushes us toward smaller, more diffuse weapons and units that increasingly rely on a series of networks to wage war. As we learned last year, you don't necessarily need a billion-dollar guided missile destroyer to chase down and deal with a bunch of teenage pirates wielding AK-47s and RPGs.

The Navy, with a backbone of combatant ships, has always been and remains the most sophisticated of all armed services. Warships are typically classed as major surface combatant and minor surface combatants. Minor surface combatants are further divided between frigates, corvettes (also called light frigates), and patrol craft. The end of the Cold War led to cutbacks in the largest Navies of Europe, and had an impact on their onstruction plans. At the same time, by the dawn of the 21st Century there were clear signs of a naval buildup in the countries of East Asia and Middle East.

Representative minor surface combatants include the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship [LCS]; Formidable class frigate, Singapore Navy; MILGEM (Milli Gemi) class corvette, Turkish Navy; Steregushchiy class frigate, Russian Navy; Sigma class corvette, Indonesian Navy; and Visby class corvette, Swedish Navy. Optimum design is a relative subject because the issues of sustainment and cost play a significant role in the decision. LCS is the most combat-effective performer, but its cost detracts from its operational advantages. MILGEM is a medium size ship with high performance and lower cost, making her the most cost-effective candidate. Visby has the lowest cost and because of its stealth can be combat-effective as others, but it is not nearly as sustainable. The 4,000 to 7,500 ton frigate Frigate class ships serve as the capital ship for many medium navies, and smaller corvette class ships serve as the capital ship for many smaller navies.

Frigates are to destroyers in seniority in surface warships. Until the mid-1980s, this class of ships was series produced to meet the demands of the Navies for combatant ships, which could not be satisfied by higher class ships. The combat capabilities of the ships were sacrificed to the required construction rates.

However, as far back as the late 1980s and early 1990s, the economic reasons and rise in cost of the abovementioned ships caused some countries (Great Britain and Canada) to regard frigates as the largest series produced ships. As a number of countries known as maritime nations (Germany, Denmark, Holland, Turkey, etc.) started to build only frigates much earlier, one can expect that in the near future this will be the most numerous class of combatant ships.

The distinction between a Frigate and a Destroyer is not always clear, and 2,000 ton destroyers from World War II would be vastly outclassed by 5,000 ton Frigates of the Cold War era. In the US Navy, the 4,100 tons (full load) FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry class Frigates serve beside 9,200 ton DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers, with no other intermediate class. With European navies, ships with diplacements of up to 7,000 tons are designated Frigates.

One might consider Major Surface Combatants to be cruisers and destroyers, with full load displacements greater than 7,500 tons. At the beginning of the 21st century, destroyers were the heaviest surface combatants in general use, with only two nations (the United States and Russia) operating cruisers and none operating battleships. Modern destroyers are equivalent in tonnage and drastically superior in firepower to cruisers of the World War II era, capable of carrying nuclear missiles able to destroy cities in a very small volley.

In naval terminology, a destroyer (French: "contre -torpilleur", German: "Zerstörer", Spanish: "destructor", Italian: "cacciatorpediniere " , Russian: Esminets (Escadrilny minonosets) - is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet or battle group and defend them against smaller, short-range attackers (originally torpedo boats, later submarines and aircraft).

By the early 1990s the construction of cruisers was practically discontinued, while the destroyers still continue to be built only in the USA, Russia, France, Italy and Japan. As was stated above, the most striking development trend of modern destroyers is that all are being transformed into multi-mission ships capable of executing the entire range of tasks normally assigned to surface combatant ships.

As of May 2010 the United States Navy included 22 CG-47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, with a light displacement of 7103 tons and a full displacement of 9957 tons, as well as 57 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers, with a displacement of 8,300 to 9,200 tons full load. This is a total of 79 major surface combatants, with an aggregate displacement of 730,000 tons.

The Russian Navy includes a single 26,500 ton displacement [full load] nuclear-powered Kirov-class battle-cruiser, the Peter Velikiy, three 12,500 ton displacement Slava class Guided Missile Cruisers, eight 8,200-8,900 ton Udaloy cleass Guided Missile Destroyers, seven 7,940 ton Sovremenny class Guided Missile Destroyers, and a single 8,500 ton Kara class Large Anti-Submarine Warfare Destroyers. These twenty warships - about a quarter the number in service with the United States Navy - have an aggregate displacement of roughly 200,000 tons, slightly more than a quarter the aggregate displacement of American major surface combatants.

The People's Republic of China has four 7,940 ton Sovremenny class Guided Missile Destroyers, with an aggregate displacement of about 32,000 tons. The People's Liberation Army Navy also has half a dozen other modern warships of somewhat lesser displacement, which in American service might qualify as frigates rather the destroyers.

As for other fleets, Taiwan operates four ex-Kidd-class destroyers, of 9,574 full load displacement, with about 38,000 tons aggregate displacement. Japan operates four 9,500 ton Kongo-class guided missile destroyers, and two 10,000 ton Atago-class guided missile destroyers, with an aggregate displacement of 48,000 tons. South Korea operates a single KDX-III Destroyer with a displacement of about 10,000 tons. These three Asian navies, friendly to the United States, have a total of 11 major surface combatants, with an aggregate displacement of slightly less than 100,000 tons.

With respect to major surface combatants, over 7,500 tons displacement, five countries besides the United States operate a total of 35 such ships, with an aggregate displacement of about 330,000 tons. The United States operates 79 major surface combatants, with an aggregate displacement of 730,000 tons - more than twice as many as the rest of the world combined, with more than twice the aggregate displacement. The tonnate ratio is 70 : 20 : 5 : 4 : 3 : 1 - for the US, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, China and South Korea. It is noteworthy that these are all Pacific powers.

The Five-Power treaty negotiated at the 1921 - Washington Naval Conference - signed by the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France and Italy - was the cornerstone of the naval disarmament program. It called for each of the countries involved to maintain a set ratio of battleship tonnage which allowed the United States and Britain 500,000 tons, Japan 300,000 tons and France and Italy each 175,000 tons. Though Japan preferred that tonnage be allotted at a 10 : 10 : 7 ratio, and the US Navy preferred a 10 : 10 : 5 ratio, the conference ultimately adopted the 5 : 5 : 3 : 1.75 limits.

22 ships, 220,000 tons

57 ships, 510,000 tons

20 ships, 200,000 tons

4 ships, 32,000 tons

4 ships, 38,000 tons

6 ships, 48,000 tons

1 ship, 10,000 tons

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:29:22 ZULU