In wartime, a navy projects naval power in order to deny the enemy the ability to do the same. This is achieved by attacking enemy naval forces, conducting amphibious landings, and seizing control of strategic bodies of water and landmasses.
1. United States
First place on the list is no surprise: the United States Navy. The U.S. Navy has the most ships by far of any navy worldwide. It also has the greatest diversity of missions and the largest area of responsibility.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has come a long way in the last 25 years. The spectacular growth of the Chinese economy, which fueled a tenfold defense-budget increase since 1989, has funded a modern navy. From a green-water navy consisting of obsolete destroyers and fast attack boats, the PLAN has grown into a true blue-water fleet.
Third on our list is the Russian Navy. Although traditionally a land power, Russia inherited the bulk of the Soviet Navy at the end of the Cold War. This aging force is at the core of the current Russian Navy, with more ships and fleet-wide improvements slowly being introduced. The Russian Navy has proven useful to show the flag and shore up flagging Russian power worldwide.
4. The United Kingdom
This list catches the Royal Navy at a historic ebb in firepower. Like much of the British Armed Forces, the Royal Navy has seen successive waves of equipment and personnel cuts. The recent retirement of two Invincible-class aircraft carriers and the Sea Harriers of the Fleet Air Arm have greatly reduced the Royal Navy’s abilities. Nuclear firepower, as well as future aircraft-carrier plans earn it fourth place on the list.
The fifth navy on this list is unusual, because technically, it is not really a navy. Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) is not a military force; its personnel are civil servants, not sailors. Largely under the radar, Japan has built up one of the largest, most-advanced and professionally manned naval forces in the world.