Naval Super Powers

USS Argonaut SS-475As a historian and a gamer I have the best of both worlds. My studies allow for asking, and answering interesting questions about history. The gamer side allows for a look into the “what ifs”. It appears that in our gaming circles we are seeing more interest in naval games. From the pre-dreadnought era to the near future several gamers are painting up their fleets and getting them ready for battle.

It has me thinking of the balance within designed naval campaigns. Since the pre-dreadnought there have been a limited to the number of naval super powers. And the limited number is just two.

To be a naval super power the nation needs three things.

  • A battle fleet with the ability to project power outside of their home waters.
  • Logistics to support the battle fleets.
  • National Policy willing to project this power.

Often a nation can meet two of the points but rarely all three.

Prior to The Great War the Royal Navy was the only fleet able to meet these criteria. This ended with the alliance with Japan and the recall of the fleet to home waters. No other navy will meet these criteria until the post war period when the two English speaking almost came to blows.

Germany in the First World War was only a regional power and not a real super power. Their surface raiders operated worldwide but were little more than a nuisance.  The submarines attempted to blockade the British Isles with little strategic success to show for the losses.

WNBR_18-45_mk2_N3_sketchNot until after the war was there a period of two naval super powers when the Royal Navy and the US Navy fleets projected power throughout the world. This period ended with the parity offered by the Washington Naval Treaty to Britain, the United States and Japan.

Not until the middle of World War II did the United States become the world sea power that we have lived with to the present time. The Chinese today can project power only into the western Pacific, and possibly the Indian Ocean. The Soviet Navy of the Cold War was only able to project power through the Black, Baltic Seas and the Arctic Ocean even with their limited carriers and allied ports in the Third World.

So the question is, what is needed to make the change from a regional naval power to a super power. I can see Imperial Germany doing better by investing in armored cruisers, gun boats and protective cruisers to protect colonies and her coast. Japan and China would need changes on the ASB level to become a naval super power.

Cold War Soviet Union has the best chance. Especially if Stalin is able to complete some of his blue water ships in the early 1950s.

hanSo what are your thoughts. Can any of these nations (China, Japan, Soviet Union and Imperial or Nazi German) become a true naval super power. While I think this would work best for the Soviet Union I would love to get your thoughts.

Pleasant sailing.

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2 Responses to Naval Super Powers

  1. Interesting musings. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about naval warfare to give any useful advice. Despite this personally I think Nazi Germany could have had the chance to become a major naval power when building subs and carriers would have had a higher priority and the war would have broken out much later. On the other hand without access to the french ports they always would have had no real uncontested route to the Atlantic.

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