The world’s most powerful navies in 2023, ranked – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

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DAVID RAUDALES UK

The world’s most powerful navies in 2023, ranked

Chinese sailors atop a naval vessel in April 2009. China’s navy is one of the world’s most powerful.

REUTERS/Guang Niu/Pool

The World Directory of Modern Military Warships ranked the world’s navies based on their power.
It looked at overall strength, modernization, logistical support, attack and defense capabilities.
See below for the 25 strongest navies in the world for 2023.

The World Directory of Modern Military Warships (WDMMW) ranked the strongest navies in the world, covering 36 nations.

The ranking looked at the total number of warships and submarines, alongside factors like the age of a fleet, its logistical support, and attack and defense capabilities.

It also looked at the balance of each force: How many different types of assets they have, and if they are concentrating their assets in one area. It included most ships but left out smaller craft, survey ships, and historical ceremonial vessels. 

The ranking distinguished between several classes of combat ship — listing the relatively small corvette and frigate types as well as larger destroyers and cruisers.

Each navy was given a final “True Value Rating” to measure them against one another.

This is how the top 25 countries stack up:

25: BrazilA Brazilian sailor with a helicopter on board the ship Navio Atlantico in February 2023.

REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

The 46 total units in Brazil’s active naval inventory are one helicopter carrier, seven submarines, six frigate warships, two corvettes, five mine/countermine warfare ships, 22 offshore patrol vessels, and three amphibious assault vessels, according to the WDMMW.

It has no destroyers or cruisers.

It said Brazil’s naval force balance is “average” and its median hull age is 30.3 years.

The WDMMW gave Brazil’s navy a True Value Rating of 39.9.

24: SingaporeSingapore’s RSS Sovereignty in the waters off the island nation in May 2017.

AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

The WDMMW gave Singapore’s navy a True Value Rating of 43.2.

It had 37 total units in its active naval inventory as of November 2022, made up of five submarines, six frigates, six corvettes, four mine/countermine warfare ships, 12 offshore patrol vessels, and amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, destroyers, or cruisers.

The WDMMW listed its force balance as “average” and said its median hull age is 19.2 years.

 

23: CanadaThe Royal Canadian Navy’s offshore patrol vessel HMCS Harry DeWolf returns after a circumnavigation of North America in December 2021.

REUTERS/Ted Pritchard

The WDMMW gave Canada’s navy a True Value Rating of 43.7.

Canada has four submarines, 12 frigates, and 21 offshore patrol vessels, making up its 37 active units as of December 2021. The nation has the world’s largest coastline.

The WDMMW noted that Canada “lacks a dedicated aircraft carrier fleet” and also cited its lack of a helicopter force of amphibious assault capabilities.

Canada also has no destroyer warships, corvette warships, cruiser warships, or mine/countermine warfare ships.

Canada’s median hull age is a relatively young 16.8, and WDMMW described its naval force balance as “fair.”

22: GreeceGreek sailors at the launch ceremony of the fast attack missile ship Lt. Vlachakos at a naval base near Athens in September 2022.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Greece has 11 submarines, 3 frigates, three mine/countermine warfare ships and 36 offshore patrol vessels, making up its 63 active units as of November 2022, according to the WDMMW.

It noted that Greece has put its focus on the offshore vessels, with that fleet “making up over half of all fighting strength.”

The balance makes sense for the Mediterranean nation, which has some 6,000 islands.

The WDMMW described the rest of the Greece’s fleet as “an aging fleet of submarines and frigates for the most part.”

Greece has no destroyers, corvettes, cruisers, or amphibious assault vessels.

The WDMMW said the navy’s force balance is “fair” and median hull age is 27.5 years.

It gave Greece’s navy a True Value Rating of 47.2.

21: ThailandA Thai sailor in February 2022.

REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Thailand had 86 total units in its active naval inventory as of January 2023.

They were one helicopter carrier, four destroyers, seven frigates, six corvettes, five mine/countermine warfare ships, 51 offshore patrol vessels, and 12 amphibious assault vessels.

It has no submarines, with the WDMMW describing it as “a surface force built primarily around local and regional defense.”

It noted Thailand’s long coastline and near neighbors of Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

The WDMMW said Thailand is working with China to acquire submarines.

It also has no cruisers.

The Thai navy has a median hull age of 25.6 years and had an “average” force balance, the WDMMW said.

The WDMMW gave Thailand’s navy a True Value Rating of 47.6.

20: AustraliaRoyal Australian Navy Ships Canberra, Supply, and Warramunga sail in formation during Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2022.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Wesley Richardson/Australian Defense Force via AP

The WDMMW gave Australia’s navy a True Value Rating of 48.9.

It said Australia has a young median hull age, at 16.2 years, and that its naval force balance is “average.”

Its 36 active units as of October 2022 were six submarines, three destroyers, eight frigates, four mine/countermine warfare ships, 12 offshore patrol vessels, and 12 amphibious assault vessels.

It has no corvettes, cruisers, or aircraft carriers.

The WDMMW noted that the navy’s “bulk of strength” comes from its offshore patrol vessel force, “which makes up more than a quarter of all available strength.”

19: IranIslamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) speedboats during an exercise in Abu Musa Island, in a picture obtained on August 2, 2023

IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

The WDMMW gave Iran’s navy, wth its 66 total active units as of November 2022, a True Value Rating of 50.3.

It has 25 submarines, seven frigates, three corvettes, 12 offshore patrol vessels, and 10 amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, destroyer warships, or cruiser warships.

The WDMMW said Iran’s naval force balance is “fair” and that it has an old median hull age, 32.6 years.

18: GermanyGerman Chancellor Olaf Scholz being transferred the frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during a visit the naval forces in Rostock in June 2023.

Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS

The WDMMW gave Germany’s navy a True Value Rating of 54.7.

Its 34 active units as of July 2023 were six submarines, 11 frigates, five corvettes, and 12 mine/countermine warfare ships.

Germany has no aircraft carriers, no amphibious assault vessels, no cruisers, and no offshore patrol vessels.

The WDMMW said Germany’s naval force balance is “fair” and its median hull age is 17.7 years.

17: SpainSpanish AV-8B Harrier IIs land on the assault ship-aircraft carrier LHD Juan Carlos I during a 2019 NATO military exercise in the Baltic Sea.

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

The 42 units that in Spain’s active inventory as of November 2022 were two submarines, 11 frigates, six mine/countermine warfare ships, 20 offshore patrol vessels, and three amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, destroyers, corvettes, or cruisers.

It has a median hull age of 24 years, and an “average” force balance, the WDMMW said.

Spain’s navy was given a True Value Rating of 56.

16: BangladeshA Bangladesh Navy vessel in the Bay of Bengal in February 2017, with a fishing boat in the foreground.

AP Photo/Joshua Paul

The WDMMW gave Bangladesh’s navy a True Value Rating of 58.6.

It has a modern navy, with a median hull age of just 14.3 years.

Bangladesh had 66 total active units as of February 2023. They were two submarines, seven frigates, six corvettes, five mine/countermine warfare ships, 30 offshore patrol vessels, and 16 amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, cruisers, or destroyers.

It has 21 units on order, the WDMMW said, which shows its navy is growing and modernizing further.

The WDMMW said its navy has an “average” force balance.

15: AlgeriaAn Algerian submarine during a 2021 training exercise.

Ministry of National Defence Naval Forces

Algeria’s navy had 96 total active units as of June 2023, according to the WDMMW.

They were six submarines, eight frigates, 11 corvettes, three mine/countermine warfare ships, 65 offshore patrol vessels, and three amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, cruisers, or destroyers.

The WDMMW said its naval force balance is “fair” and its median hull age is 16 years.

It gave Algeria’s navy a True Value Rating of 61.5.

14: North KoreaNorth Korean sailors at a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2017.

AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

The WDMMW gave North Korea’s navy a True Value Rating of 67.9.

Though it has a huge fleet, its ships tend to be old and small, unlikely to seriously trouble a more modern force.

The isolated dictatorship has 19 submarines, two frigates, seven corvettes, one mine/countermine warfare ships, and 157 offshore patrol vessels.

It has 186 total units in its active naval inventory as of January 2023.

It has no aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, or amphibious assault vessels.

The WDMMW said the navy’s force balance is “fair.”

North Korea also has an old fleet: Its median hull age is 49.2 years.

13: EgyptThe Egyptian fast attack craft M. Fahmy in Istanbul, Turkey, in November 2020.

REUTERS/Yoruk Isik

Egypt’s navy is the largest such force in Africa or the Middle East, the WDMMW said.

It listed 107 active units as of November 2022. They were eight submarines, 12 frigates, seven corvettes, 18 mine/countermine warfare ships, 48 offshore patrol vessels, and 12 amphibious assault vessels.

It also has two helicopter carriers, making it “the only African/Middle East power to have aircraft carriers in the force.”

It has no destroyers and no cruisers and it only has one vessel in production.

The WDMMW said Egypt’s force balance is “average” and its median hull age is 27.5 years.

It gave Egypt a True Value Rating of 72.4.

12: TaiwanCandidates training to join the Taiwan navy’s elite Amphibious Reconnaissance and Patrol unit in December 2021.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

The WDMMW said Taiwan has 91 total active units as of November 2022, and gave it a True Value Rating of 74.9.

It said Taiwan’s force balance is “average” and its median hull age is 26.9.

The navy is a key concern for Taiwan, an island nation which fears invasion from its massive and powerful neighbor China, which disputes its right to exist.

Taiwan has four submarines, four destroyers, 22 frigates, two corvettes, 1o mine/countermine warfare ships, 42 offshore patrol vessels,and seven amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers or cruisers.

11: ItalyThe Italian navy ship San Giorgio comes to dock in Catania, Sicily, in February 2011.

AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi

The WDMMW gave Italy’s navy a True Value Rating of 80.7.

Two aircraft carriers, eight submarines, four destroyers, 11 frigates, 10 mine/countermine warfare ships, 16 offshore patrol vessels, and three amphibious assault vessels made up its 54 active units as of November 2022.

It has no corvettes or cruisers.

The WDMMW said Italy’s naval force balance is “average” and its median hull age is 24.7.

10: TurkeyTCG Anadolu, Turkey’s first amphibious assault ship, in Istanbul in April 2023.

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Turkey has 90 active units as of April 2023, the WDMMW said, which are one helicopter carrier, 12 submarines, 16 frigates, 10 corvettes, 11 mine/countermine warships, 35 offshore patrol vessels, and five amphibious vessels.

Turkey, a NATO member, has no destroyers or cruisers.

Turkey controls a vital maritime chokepoint: the crossing between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Its median hull age is 18.8 years, and its force balance is “average,” according to WDMMW.

Turkey got a True Value Rating of 80.5.

9: UKBritain’s HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base on October 7, 2022.

Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The WDMMW gave the UK navy a True Value Rating of 88.3.

The force “puts a premium on multi-mission warships with nearly a quarter of its force dedicated to frigates followed by a focus on mine warfare and then submarines,” the WDMMW said.

It has two aircraft carriers, 10 submarines, six destroyer warships, 12 frigate warships, 11 mine/countermine warfare ships, six offshore patrol vessels, and two amphibious assault vessels.

It has no corvette warships or cruiser warships.

The WDMMW said the UK has 51 total units in its active naval inventory as of November 2022, and the balance of its force is “average.” It has just three more vessels on order, much less than most of the world’s top navies.

The UK’s median hull age is 17.7 years, which is younger than many of the world’s most powerful navies.

8: FranceFrances’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier alongside US and Danish warships in the Red Sea on April 15, 2019.

US Navy/MCS3 Skyler Okerman

The WDMMW said France has 65 active units as of January 2023, and gave it a True Value Rating of 92.9.

France has “a modern, multi-role force covering airpower, surface combatants, and undersea boats,” it said.

The WDMMW focused on France’s efforts to modernize its navy, including its destroyer force of 21 ships.

France also currently has one aircraft carrier — the Charles de Gaulle — as well as nine submarines, 14 offshore patrol vessels, and three amphibious assault vessels.

It said France’s 17-strong mine/countermine warfare ship feet is “considerable considering France’s shorelines along European waters.” 

France has no frigates, cruisers, or corvettes and its median hull age is 23 years.

The WDMMW said France has an “average” force balance.

7: IndiaThe submarine INS Vagir in Mumbai, India, in January 2023.

REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni

The WDMMW gave India’s navy a True Value Rating of 99.1.

It said India had 102 active units as of January 2023, which were one aircraft carrier, 17 submarines, 1o destroyers, 13 frigates, 23 corvette s, 29 offshore patrol vessels, and nine amphibious assault vessels.

India has no mine/countermine warfare ships or cruisers and its median hull age is 20.1 years, the WDMMW said.

It said India’s naval force has an “average” balance.

 

6: JapanJS Kumano of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in May 2023.

REUTERS/Caroline Chia

The WDMMW gave Japan’s navy a True Value Rating of 121.3, and said it had 102 active units as of November 2022.

Japan also has a more modern navy than many of the top-ranked countries, with a median hull age of 14.8 years, the WDMMW said.

Japan has four helicopter carriers, 22 submarines, 22 destroyers, three frigates, 22 mine/countermine warfare ships, six offshore patrol vessels, and three amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, no cruisers, and no corvettes.

The WDMMW said Japan’s naval force has an “average” balance.

5: South KoreaSouth Korea’s ROKS Shin Dol-seok submarine in July 2022.

US Navy/MCS3 Aleksandr Freutel

The WDMMW said South Korea’s navy had 138 active units.

It said the navy is “a well-balanced fighting force that includes all expected naval unit types short of dedicated fixed-wing aircraft carriers.”

Its force is “built with defense and deterrence in mind,” likely a reference to its aggressive neighbor North Kora.

Its force was listed as 18 submarines, 12 destroyers, 12 frigates, 11 corvettes, 11 mine/countermine warfare ships, 64 offshore patrol vessels, and 1o amphibious assault vessels, as of May 2023.

It has no aircraft carriers or cruisers.

It has a median hull age of 22.4 years.

The WDMMW gave South Korea a True Value Rating of 122.9.

4: IndonesiaIndonesian sailors and a military celebration in Jakarta in October 2010.

REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

The WDMMW gave Indonesia’s navy a True Value Rating of 137.7, with 243 active units as of July 2023.

Indonesia has four submarines, seven frigates, 25 corvettes, nine mine/countermine warfare ships, 168 offshore patrol vessels, and 3o amphibious assault vessels.

It has no aircraft carriers, cruisers, or destroyers, WDMMW said.

It said Indonesia’s fleet has an “average” balance of assets.

Indonesia’s median hull age is 21.8.

3: RussiaVladimir Putin at Russian Navy Day in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 30, 2023.

Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russia’s navy, with 265 units in its active inventory assets as of March 2023, was ranked third in the world by the WDMMW.

But it said Russia has a lot of ageing units, including its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.

Many of it 58 submarines, 12 destroyers, and four cruisers are also showing their age.

It said Russia’s median hull age is 30 years.

Russia, it said, had one frigate, 83 corvettes, 28 mine/countermine warfare ships, 27 offshore patrol vessels, and 21 amphibious assault vessels.

The WDMMW said “The mine warfare division is primarily aging Soviet Cold War-era instruments as is the bulk of the amphibious assault/support force.”

It noted Russia is trying to modernize its navy, with a big number of units on order, at 82, and a “noticeable commitment” to new corvette warships, submarines, and mine/countermine warfare ships.

The WDMMW gave Russia a True Value Rating of 242.3 and said it has a “good” force balance.

Russia’s military has seen some major equipment losses in its invasion of Ukraine, but its navy has not played a major role, keeping its fleet largely intact.

One significant loss was its the Moskva, its flagship in the Black Sea, which was taken out in a Ukrainian missile strike.

2: ChinaChinese sailors at a fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its navy in April 2009.

REUTERS/Guang Niu/Pool

China, a rising naval power, had the largest fleet in the WDMMW ranking, with 425 active units as of August 2023.

They were three aircraft carriers, 72 submarines, 48 destroyers, 71 corvettes, 44 frigates, 49 mine countermeasures/countermine warfare ships, 127 offshore patrol vessels, and 11 amphibious assault vessels.

It has no cruisers.

It has a much younger median hull age than the US, at 13.8 years, but also has fewer assets on order, at 14. It said China’s navy has a “good” balance of assets.

The WDMMW gave China a True Value Rating of 318.9.

1: USThe USS Connecticut after surfacing through Arctic sea ice during an exercise in Alaska in March 2011.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The US Navy is widely considered the most powerful the world has ever known.

The WDMMW gave it a True Value Rating of 323.9, its highest score.

It said the US scored so highly because it “features a broad mix of warship and submarine types as well as balance strengthened by overall numbers (quantity) – pulling ahead by its vaunted carrier fleet.”

The US navy had a total of 243 active units as of November 2022, the listing said. They were 11 aircraft carriers, 68 submarines, 22 cruisers,  70 destroyers, 21 corvettes, eight mine/countermine warfare ships, 10 offshore patrol vessels, and 33 amphibious assault vessels.

It has no frigates.

It said the US has a “good” balance in its types of assets, and its median hull age is 23.3 years.

It also noted that the US has many more units on order, at 67, a sign that it is “attempting to keep pace with global rival China.” 

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