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Naval warfare is combat in and on seas, oceans, or any other major bodies of water such as large lakes and wide rivers.


Mankind has fought battles on the sea for more than 3,000 years. Land warfare would seem, initially, to be irrelevant and entirely removed from warfare on the open ocean, though this is not necessarily true. Land navigation, until the advent of extensive railroads was extremely dependent upon river systems and canals.

The latter were crucial in the development of the modern world in the United Kingdommarker, the Low Countries and northern Germanymarker, for they enabled the bulk movement of goods and raw materials without which the Industrial Revolution would not have occurred. Prior to 1750, things moved by barge or sea, or not much at all. Thus armies, with their exorbitant needs for food, ammunition and fodder, were tied to the river valleys throughout the ages.

The oceanic influences throughout pre-recorded history (Homeric Legends, e.g. Troymarker), and classical works like the Odyssey underscore the past influences. The Persian Empire — united and strong — couldn't prevail against the might of the Athenianmarker fleet combined with that of lesser city states in several attempts to conquer the Greekmarker city states. Phoeniciamarker's and Egyptmarker's power, Carthagemarker's and even Romemarker's depended in no mean way upon control of the seas.

So too did the Venetian Republicmarker dominate Italymarker's city states, thwart the Ottoman Empire, and dominate commerce on the Silk Road and the Mediterraneanmarker in general for centuries. For three centuries, the Northmen commonly called the Vikings raided and pillaged and went where they willed, far into central Russiamarker and the Ukrainemarker, and even to far off Constantinoplemarker (both via the Black Seamarker tributaries and through the Strait of Gibraltarmarker).

The many sea battles through history also provide a reliable source of shipwrecks for underwater archaeology. A major example, albeit not very commonly known, is the exploration of the wrecks of various battleships in the Pacific Oceanmarker, namely Japanesemarker warships that sank during the Battle of Midwaymarker.

Oars people of the Mediterranean Sea

The first dateable recorded sea battle occurred about 1210 BC: Suppiluliuma II, king of the Hittites, defeated a fleet from Cyprusmarker, and burned their ships at sea.

Assyrian reliefs from the 700s BC show Phoenicianmarker fighting ships, with two levels of oars, fighting men on a sort of bridge or deck above the oarsmen, and some sort of ram protruding from the bow. No written mention of strategy or tactics seems to have survived.

The Greeksmarker of Homer just used their ships as transport for land armies, but in 664 BC there is a mention of a battle at sea between Corinthmarker and its colony city Corcyramarker.

The Persian Wars were the first to feature large-scale naval operations, not just sophisticated fleet engagements with dozens of triremes on each side, but combined land-sea operations. It seems unlikely that all this was the product of a single mind or even of a generation; most likely the period of evolution and experimentation was simply not recorded by history.

After some initial battles while subjugating the Greeks of the Ionian coast, the Persians determined to invade Greece proper. Themistocles of Athensmarker estimated that the Greeks would be outnumbered by the Persians on land, but that Athens could protect itself by building a fleet (the famous "wooden walls"), using the profits of the silver mines at Lauriummarker to finance them.

The first Persian campaign, in 492 BC, was aborted because the fleet was lost in a storm, but the second, in 490 BC, captured islands in the Aegean Seamarker before landing on the mainland near Marathonmarker. Attacks by the Greek armies repulsed these.

The third Persian campaign, under Xerxes I of Persia ten years later (480 BC), followed the pattern of the first in marching the army via the Hellespontmarker while the fleet paralleled them offshore. Near Artemisiummarker, in the narrow channel between the mainland and Euboeamarker, the Greek fleet held off multiple assaults by the Persians, the Persians breaking through a first line, but then being flanked by the second line of ships. But the defeat on land at Thermopylaemarker forced a Greek withdrawal, and Athens evacuated its population to nearby Salamis Islandmarker.

The ensuing Battle of Salamis was one of the decisive engagements of history. Themistocles trapped the Persians in a channel too narrow for them to bring their greater numbers to bear, and attacked them vigorously, in the end causing the loss of 200 Persian ships vs 40 Greek. At the end, Xerxes still had a fleet stronger than the Greeks, but withdrew anyway, and after losing at Plataea in the following year, returned to Asia Minormarker, leaving the Greeks their freedom. Nevertheless, the Athenians and Spartans attacked and burned the laid-up Persian fleet at Mycale, and freed many of the Ionian towns.

During the next fifty years, the Greeks commanded the Aegean, but not harmoniously. After several minor wars about which we know little, tensions exploded into the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.) between Athens' Delian League and the Spartan Peloponnesemarker. Naval strategy was critical; Athens walled itself off from the rest of Greece, leaving only the port at Piraeusmarker open, and trusting in its navy to keep supplies flowing while the Spartan army besieged it. This strategy worked, although the close quarters likely contributed to the plague that killed many Athenians in 429.

There were a number of sea battles between galleys; at Rhium, Naupactus, Pylos, Syracuse, Cynossema, Cyzicus, Notium. But the end came for Athens in 405 at Aegospotami in the Hellespontmarker, where the Athenians had drawn up their fleet on the beach, and were surprised by the Spartan fleet, who landed and burned all the ships. Athens surrendered to Sparta in the following year.

Navies next played a major role in the complicated wars of the successors of Alexander the Great.

The Roman Republic had never been much of a seafaring nation, but it had to learn, and learn fast, in the Punic Wars with Carthagemarker, and developed the technique of grappling and boarding enemy ships with soldiers. The Roman Navy grew gradually as Rome found itself involved in more and more Mediterranean politics; by the time of the Roman Civil War and the Battle of Actiummarker in 31 BC, hundreds of ships were involved, many of them quinqueremes mounting catapults and fighting towers. Following the Emperor Augustus transforming the Republic into the Roman Empire, Rome gained control of most of the Mediterranean. Without any significant maritime enemies, the Roman navy was reduced mostly to patroling for pirates and transportation duties. It was only on the fringes of the Empire, in newly gained provincies or defensive missions against barbarian invasion, did the navy still engage in actual warfare.

Ancient China

In ancient China, the first known naval battles took place during the Warring States (481 BC - 221 BC), a period where regional kings battled against one another. Chinese naval warfare in this ancient period featured grapple-and-hook, as well as ramming tactics with ships called "stomach strikers" and "colliding swoopers" . It was written in the subsequent Han Dynasty that the Warring States era Chinese had employed ge chuan ships (dagger-axe ships, or halberd ships), thought to have a simple description of a ship manned by marines carrying dagger-axe halberds as personal weapons.

The later 3rd century Three Kingdoms era Chinese writer Zhang Yan asserted in his writing that the Warring States Chinese named the boats this way because halberd blades were actually fixed and attached to the hull of the ship in order to rip into the hull of another ship while ramming, to stab enemies in the water that had fallen overboard and were swimming, or simply to clear any possible dangerous marine animals in the path of the ship (since the ancient Chinese did believe in sea monsters, see Xu Fu for more info).

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC), owed much of his success in unifying Chinamarker (specifically southern China) to naval power, although an official navy was not yet established (see Medieval Asia section below). Zhou Dynasty era Chinese were known to use temporary pontoon bridges for general means of transportation, but it was during the Qin and later Han Dynasty that large permanent pontoon bridges were assembled, and used for purposes of warfare (first written account of a pontoon bridge in the West being the oversight of the Greek Mandrocles of Samos in aiding a military campaign of Persian Emperor Darius I over the Bosporusmarker).

During the Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 220), the Chinese discovered the use of the stern-mounted steering rudder, as well as designed a new ship type, the junk. During the late Han Dynasty into the Three Kingdoms period, significantly large naval battles like the Battle of Chibimarker marked the advancement of naval warfare in the East. In the latter engagement, the Chinese military strategist Zhuge Liang from the Kingdom of Shu is well known for his fire attack upon the massive naval fleet of Prime Minister Cao Cao.

In terms of seafaring abroad, arguably one of the first Chinese to sail into the Indian Oceanmarker and to reach Sri Lankamarker and Indiamarker by sea was the Buddhist monk Fa Xian in the early 5th century (although diplomatic ties and land trade to Persia and India was established during the earlier Han Dynasty). However, Chinese naval maritime influence would not present itself in the Indian Ocean until the medieval period.

Europe, Middle East and North Africa

The barbarian invasions of the 4th century and later mostly occurred by land, but there are mentions of a Vandal fleet fighting with the Romans, and a defeat of an Ostrogothic fleet at Sena Gallicamarker in the Adriatic Seamarker.

During the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, Arab fleets begin to make an appearance, raiding Sicily in 652 (see History of Islam in southern Italy and Emirate of Sicily), and defeating the Byzantine Navy in 655. Constantinoplemarker is saved from a prolonged Arab siege in 678 by the invention of Greek fire, an early form of flamethrower that was devastating to the ships in the besieging fleet. These were just the first of many encounters during the Byzantine-Arab Wars.

The Islamic Caliphate, or Arab Empire, became the dominant naval power in the Mediterranean Seamarker from the 7th to 13th centuries, during what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. One of the most significant inventions in medieval naval warfare was the torpedo, invented in Syriamarker by the Arab inventor Hasan al-Rammah in 1275. His torpedo ran on water with a rocket system filled with explosive gunpowder materials and had three firing points. It was a very effective weapon against ships.

In the 8th century the Norse Vikings begin to make an appearance, although their usual style is to appear quickly, plunder, and disappear, preferably undefended locations. King Alfred the Great of Englandmarker built a fleet and was able to stay the Viking incursions, establishing the boundaries of Danelawmarker in a 884 treaty.

The Norse also fought several sea battles among themselves. This was normally done by binding the ships on each side together, thus essentially fighting a land battle on the sea. However the fact that the losing side could not easily escape meant that battles tended to be hard and bloody. The Battle of Svolder is perhaps the most famous of these battles.

As Arab power in the Mediterranean began to wane, the Italianmarker trading towns of Genoamarker, Pisamarker, and Venicemarker stepped in to seize the opportunity, setting up commercial networks and building navies to protect them. At first the navies fought with the Arabs (off Barimarker in 1004, at Messinamarker in 1005), but then they found themselves contending with Normans moving into Sicily, and finally with each other. The Genoese and Venetians fought four naval wars, in 1253–1284, 1293–1299,1350–1355, and 1378–1381. The last ended with a decisive victory for Venice, which gave them almost a century to enjoy Mediterranean trade domination before other European countries started exploring to the south and west.

In the north of Europe, the near-continuous conflict between Englandmarker and Francemarker rarely entails naval activity more sophisticated than carrying knights across the English Channelmarker, and perhaps trying to attack the transports. The Battle of Dovermarker in 1217, between a French fleet of 80 ships under Eustace the Monk and an English fleet of 40 under Hubert de Burgh, is notable as the first recorded battle using sailing ship tactics.

East and South Asia

The Sui Dynasty (581 - 618) and Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) of China were involved in several naval affairs over the triple-set of polities ruling medieval Koreamarker (Three Kingdoms of Korea), along with engaging naval bombardments on the peninsula from Asuka period Yamato Kingdom (Japanmarker). A prominent factor in the sudden decline and collapse of the Sui Dynasty was its pouring of state funds into the Goguryeo-Sui Wars, where the Chinese assembled an enormous naval fleet that in the end was unsuccessful.

The succeeding Tang Dynasty of China took on a different foreign policy, aiding the Silla Dynasty (see also Unified Silla) in expelling the armies and naval forces of the Japanese (see Battle of Baekgang) and conquering Silla's other Korean rivals, Baekje and Goguryeo by 668. In addition, the Chinese Tang Dynasty had maritime trading, tributary, and diplomatic ties as far as modern-day Sri Lankamarker, Indiamarker, Islamic Iranmarker and Arabia, as well as Somaliamarker in East Africa.

From the Axumite Kingdom in modern-day Ethiopiamarker, the Arab traveller Sa'd ibn Abi-Waqqas sailed from there to Tang China during the reign of Emperor Gaozong. Two decades later, he returned with a copy of the Quran, establishing the first Islamic mosque in China, the Mosque of Remembrance in Guangzhoumarker. What followed was a rising rivalry between Arab and Chinese for dominant control of sea lanes of trade in the Indian Ocean. In his book Cultural Flow Between China and the Outside World, Shen Fuwei notes that maritime Chinese merchants in the 9th century were landing regularly at Sufala in East Africa to cut out Arab middle-men traders.

The Chola Dynasty of medieval Indiamarker was a dominant seapower in the Indian Oceanmarker, an avid maritime trader and diplomatic entity with Song China. Rajaraja Chola I (reigned 985 to 1014) and his son Rajendra Chola I (reigned 1014-42), who were from the Dravidian kingdom in southern India, sent out a great naval expedition that occupied parts of Myanmarmarker, Malaya, and Sumatramarker. While many believe the Cholas were the first rulers noted to have a naval fleet in the Indian subcontinent, there are at least two evidences to cite use of navies. Narasimhavarman Pallava I transported his troops to Sri Lanka to help Manavarman to reclaim the throne. Shatavahanahas were known to possess a navy that was widely deployed to influence Southeast Asia. What is not known is the extent of use.

Some argue that there is no evidence to support naval warfare in a contemporary sense. Others say that ships routinely carried bands of archers to keep pirates at bay. However, since the Arabs were known to use catapults, naptha, and devices attached to ships to prevent boarding parties, one can reasonably conclude that Chola navies not only transported troops but also provided support, protection, and attack capabilities against enemy targets.

12th century

In the 12th century, China's first permanent standing navy was established by the Southern Song Dynasty, the headquarters of the Admiralty stationed at Ding-hai. This came about after the conquest of northern China by the Jurchen people (see Jin Dynasty) in 1127, while the Chinese court fled south from Kaifengmarker to Hangzhoumarker. Equipped with the magnetic compass and knowledge of Shen Kuo's famous treatise (on the concept of true north), the Chinese became proficient experts of navigation in their day. They raised their naval strength from a mere 11 squadrons of 3,000 marines to 20 squadrons of 52,000 marines in a century's time.

Employing paddle wheel crafts and trebuchet's throwing gunpowder bombs from the decks of their ships, the Chinese became a formidable foe to the Jin Dynasty during the 12th-13th centuries (see also Battle of Caishi and Battle of Tangdao). With a powerful navy, China dominated maritime trade throughout South East Asia as well. Until 1279, the Chinese were able to use their naval power to defend against the Jin to the north, until the Mongols finally conquered all of China. After the Song Dynasty, the Mongol-led Yuan Dynastymarker of China was a powerful maritime force in the Indian Ocean.

The Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan attempted to invade Japan twice with enormous fleets (of both Mongols and Chinese), in 1274 and again in 1281, both attempts being unsuccessful (see Mongol invasions of Japan). Building upon the technological achievements of the earlier Chinese Song Dynasty, the Mongols also employed early cannons upon the decks of their ships.

While the Chinese Song Dynasty built its naval strength, the Japanese also had considerable naval prowess. The strength of Japanese naval forces could be seen in the Genpei War, in the large-scale Battle of Dan-no-ura on April 25, 1185. The forces of Minamoto no Yoshitsune were 850 ships strong, while Taira no Munemori had 500 ships under his command.

In the mid 14th century, the rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398) seized power in the south amongst many other rebel groups. His early success was owed to the aid of capable officials such as Liu Ji and Jiao Yu, and their gunpowder weapons (see Huolongjing). Yet the decisive battle that cemented his success and his founding of the Ming Dynastymarker (1368-1644) was the Battle of Lake Poyang, considered one of the largest naval battles in history.

In the 15th century, the Chinese Ming Dynasty Admiral Zheng He was assigned to assemble a massive fleet for several tributary missions abroad, sailing throughout the waters of the South East Pacificmarker and the Indian Ocean. During his maritime missions, on several occasions Zheng's fleet came into conflict with pirates. Zheng's fleet also became involved in a conflict in Sri Lanka, where the King of Ceylon traveled back to Ming China afterwards to make a formal apology to the Emperor.

In the late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi of Momoyama-era Japan gathered an enormous fleet to assault the Joseon Dynastymarker of Korea when the Korean King Seonjo refused to allow Japanese armies to invade Ming Dynasty China via the Korean Peninsula as a staging ground. During the Japanese invasions of Korea , the Japanese employed clever close-range tactics on land with arquebus rifles, but also relied upon close-range firing of muskets in grapple-and-board style naval engagements.

The Japanese were successful in first capturing the Korean port at Busanmarker, the capital at Hanseongmarker (In modern-day Seoulmarker) fell to their forces, and then proceeded to move far north into the Korean peninsula. Military aid sent by Chinese Wanli Emperor of Ming assisted the Koreans somewhat, but the farther firing range of Korean cannons, along with the brilliant naval strategies of the Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin, were the main detrimental factors in ultimate Japanese defeats.

Admiral Yi is credited Turtle ship (Geobukseon). Turtle Ships were used mostly to spearhead attacks. They were best used in tight areas and around islands rather than the open sea. Admiral Yi effectively cut off the possible Japanese supply line that would have run through the Yellow Seamarker to China, as well as severely weakened the Japanese strength and fighting morale in several heated engagements (where many regard the most critical Japanese defeat to be the Battle of Hansan Island).

Sails and empires

Main article: Age of sail

The late Middle Ages was important as the time of the development of the cogs, caravels and carracks ships capable of surviving the tough conditions of the open ocean, with enough backup systems and crew expertise to make long voyages routine. In addition, they grew from 100 tons to 300 tons displacement, enough to carry cannons as armament and still have space left over for profitable cargo. One of the largest ships of the time, the Great Harry displaced over 1,500 tons.

The voyages of discovery were fundamentally commercial rather than military in nature, although the line was sometimes blurry in that a country's ruler was not above funding exploration for personal profit, nor was it a problem to use military power to enhance that profit. Later the lines gradually separated, in that the ruler's motivation in using the navy was to protect private enterprise so that they could pay more taxes.

Like the Egyptian Shia-Fatimids and Mamluks, the Sunni-Islamic Ottoman Empire centered in modern-day Turkey dominated the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Ottomans built a powerful navy, rivaling the Italian city-state of Venice during the Ottoman-Venetian Wars .

Although they were sorely defeated in the Battle of Lepanto marker by the Holy League, the Ottomans quickly rebuilt their naval strength, and afterwards successfully defended the island of Cyprus so that it would stay in Ottoman hands. However, with the concurrent Age of Discovery, Europe had far surpassed the Ottoman Empire, and successfully bypassed their reliance on land-trade by discovering maritime routes around Africa and towards the Americas.

The first naval action in defense of the new colonies was just ten years after Vasco da Gama's epochal landing in India. In March 1508, a combined Gujarati/Egyptian force surprised a Portuguese squadron at Dabulmarker, and only two Portuguese ships escaped. The following February, the Portuguese viceroy destroyed the allied fleet at Battle of Diumarker, thus confirming Portuguese domination of the Indian Ocean.

In 1582, the Battle of Ponta Delgada in the Azores, in which a Spanishmarker fleet defeated a combined Portuguesemarker, Frenchmarker, Englishmarker and Dutchmarker force, thus suppressing a revolt in the islands, was the first battle fought in mid-Atlanticmarker.

In 1588, Philip II of Spain sent his Spanish Armada to subdue Elizabeth I of England, but Admiral Sir Charles Howard forced its retreat, beginning the rise to prominence of the Royal Navy. However it was unable to follow up with a decisive blow against the Spanish navy, which remained the most important for another half century. After the war's end in 1604 the English fleet went through a time of relative neglect and decline.

In the 16th century, the Barbary Coast|Barbary states of North Africa rose to power and they collectively became a dominant naval power in the Mediterranean Sea due to the Barbary pirates. The coastal villages and towns of Italymarker, Spain and List of islands in the Mediterranean|Mediterranean islands were frequently attacked by them and long stretches of the Italian and Spanish coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants; after 1600 Barbary pirates occasionally entered the Atlantic and struck as far north as Icelandmarker.

According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. These slaves were captured mainly from seaside villages in Italymarker, Spainmarker and Portugalmarker, and from farther places like Francemarker, Englandmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Irelandmarker and even Iceland and North America. The Barbary pirates were also able to successfully defeat and capture many European ships, which was largely due to advances in sailing technology by the Barbary states. The earliest naval trawler, xebec and windward ships were employed by the Barbary pirates from the 16th century.

From the middle of the 17th century competition between the expanding English and Dutch commercial fleets came to a head in the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the first wars to be conducted entirely at sea. Most memorable of these battles was the raid on the Medway, in which the Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter sailed up the river Thames, and destroyed most of the British fleet. This remains to date the greatest naval defeat of England and her consecutive countries, and established Dutch supremacy at sea for over half a century. The English and Dutch wars were also known for very few ships being sunk, as it was very difficult to hit ships below the water level; the water surface deflected cannon balls, and the few holes produced could be patched quickly. Naval forces were severely weakened by casualties to the men and damage to the sails more than by loss of ships.

The 18th century developed into a period of seemingly continuous world wars, each larger than the last. At sea, the British and French were bitter rivals; the French aided the fledgling United Statesmarker in the American Revolutionary War, but their strategic purpose was to capture territory in Indiamarker and the West Indiesmarker--which they did not achieve. In the Baltic Sea, the final attempt to revive the Swedish Empire led to Gustav III's Russian War, with its grande finale at the Second Battle of Svensksundmarker. The battle was unrivalled in size until the 20th century, was a decisive Swedish tactical victory but its strategical result was poor (due to poor army performance and previous lack of initiative from the Swedes) and the war ended without any territorial changes.

Even the change of government due to the French Revolution seemed to intensify rather than diminish the rivalry, and the Napoleonic Wars included a series of legendary naval battles, culminating in the Battle of Trafalgarmarker in 1805, by which Admiral Horatio Nelson broke the power of the French and Spanish fleets, but lost his own life in so doing.

From wood and wind to steel and steam

Trafalgar ushered in the Pax Britannica of the 19th century, marked by general peace in the world's oceans, under the ensigns of the Royal Navy. But the period was one of intensive experimentation with new technology; steam power for ships appeared in the 1810s, improved metallurgy and machining technique produced larger and deadlier guns, and the development of explosive shells, capable of demolishing a wooden ship at a single blow, in turn required the addition of iron armour.

Although naval power during the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties established China as a major world seapower in the East, the Qing Dynastymarker lacked an official standing navy. They were more interested in pouring funds into military ventures closer to home (China proper), such as Mongolia, Tibet, and Central Asia (modern Xinjiang). However, there were some considerable naval conflicts during the Qing Dynasty before the Opium Wars (such as the Battle of Penghu, or the conflict against Koxinga).

The insignificant naval effort that the Manchus/Chinese pitted against the more advanced British steam-powered ships during the first of the Opium Wars in the 1840s was sorely defeated. This left China open to virtual foreign domination (from European powers and then Japan) via spheres of influence over regions of China for economic gain. Although the Qing Dynasty attempted to modernize the Chinese navy, China's Beiyang Fleet was dealt a severe blow by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).

The famous battle of the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor in the American Civil War was the duel of ironclads that symbolized the changing times. The first fleet action between ironclad ships was fought in 1866 at the Battle of Lissamarker between the navies of Austriamarker and Italymarker. Because the decisive moment of the battle occurred when the Austrian flagship the Erzherzog Ferdinand Max successfully sank the Italian flagship Re d'Italia by ramming, in subsequent decades every navy in the world largely focused on ramming as the main tactic.

As the century came to a close, the familiar modern battleship began to emerge; a steel-armored ship, entirely dependent on steam, and sporting a number of large shell guns mounted in turrets arranged along the centerline of the main deck. The ultimate design was reached in 1906 with the HMS Dreadnought which entirely dispensed with smaller guns, her main guns being sufficient to sink any existing ship of the time.

The Russo-Japanese War and particularly the Battle of Tsushimamarker in 1905 was the first test of the new concepts, resulting a stunning Japanese victory and the destruction of most Russian ships.

With the advent of the steamship, it became possible to create massive gun platforms and to provide them with heavy armor protection. The Dreadnought battleships and their successors were the first capital ships that combined technology and firepower with a mobile platform. However, in the first half of the 20th century, the effect of airpower on the effectiveness and usability of large capital ships became clear.

World War I pitted the old Royal Navy against the new navy of Imperial Germanymarker, culminating in the 1916 Battle of Jutlandmarker. (The future was heralded when seaplane carrier HMS Campania missed the battle.)

Between wars, the first aircraft carrier, HMS Argus, appeared. Many nations agreed to the Washington Naval Treaty and scrapped many of their battleships and cruisers while still in the shipyards, but the growing tensions of the 1930s restarted the building programs, with even larger ships than before; Yamatomarker, the largest battleship ever, displaced 72,000 tons and mounted guns.

Above and below the surface

The victory of the Royal Navy at the Battle of Tarantomarker was a pivotal point as this was the first true demonstration of naval air power. Following 7 December 1941 when the United Statesmarker came into World War II, the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse marked the end of the era of the battleship, and the new importance of aircraft and their transportation, the aircraft carrier, came to the fore.

During the Pacific War, battleships and cruisers spent most of their time bombarding shore positions, while the carriers were the stars of the key Battle of the Coral Sea, Battle of Midwaymarker, Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the climactic Battle of Leyte Gulfmarker. Air power remained key to navies throughout the 20th century, moving to jets launched from ever-larger carriers, and augmented by cruisers armed with guided missiles and cruise missiles.

Roughly parallel to the development of naval aviation was the development of submarines to travel underneath the sea, at first for short dives, then later to be able to spend weeks or months underwater powered by a nuclear reactor. In both World Wars, submarines (U-boats in Germany) primarily exerted their power by using torpedoes to sink merchant ships, as well as other warships. In the 1950s the Cold War inspired the development of ballistic missile submarines, each one loaded with dozens of nuclear-armed missiles and with orders to launch them from sea should the other nation attack.

Against the backdrop of these developments, World War II had seen the United Statesmarker become by far the largest Naval power in the world. Throughout the rest of the 20th century The United States Navy would maintain a tonnage greater than that of the next 17 largest navies combined.Work, Robert O. "Winning the Race:A Naval Fleet Platform Architecture for Enduring Maritime Supremacy". Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Online. Accessed April 8 2006.

The only major naval conflict that took place in the second half of the 20th century was the well known Falklands War, pitting Argentinamarker against the United Kingdommarker. The Falklands showed the vulnerability of modern ships to sea-skimming missiles like the Exocet. One hit from an Exocet sank HMS Sheffieldmarker, a modern anti-air warfare destroyer. Important lessons about ship design, damage control and ship construction materials were learnt from the conflict.

At the present time, large naval wars seem to be very rare affairs, with the main function of the modern navy being to exploit its control of the seaways to project power ashore. Power projection has been the primary naval feature of conflicts like the Korean War, Suez Crisis, Vietnam War, Konfrontasi, Gulf War, Kosovo War and both campaigns of the War on Terrorism in Afghanistanmarker and Iraqmarker.

Naval history

See also



  1. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 678.
  2. Shen, 155.
  3. Davis, Robert. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800.[1]


  • Shen, Fuwei (1996). Cultural Flow Between China and the Outside World. China Books & Periodicals. ISBN 978-7119004310
  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 3. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
  • Giuseppe Gagliano-Giorgio Giorgerini-Michele Cosentino,Sicurezza internazionale e potere marittimo,New Press 2002

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