A navy or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces
principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely,
lake-borne, riverine, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and
related functions. It includes anything conducted by surface ships,
amphibious ships, submarines, and seaborne aviation, as well as
ancillary support, communications, training, and other fields. The
strategic offensive role of a navy is projection of force into areas
beyond a country's shores (for example, to protect sea-lanes, ferry
troops, or attack other navies, ports, or shore installations). The
strategic defensive purpose of a navy is to frustrate seaborne
projection-of-force by enemies. The strategic task of the navy also
may incorporate nuclear deterrence by use of submarine-launched
ballistic missiles. Naval operations can be broadly divided between
riverine and littoral applications (brown-water navy), open-ocean
applications (blue-water navy), and something in between (green-water
navy), although these distinctions are more about strategic scope than
tactical or operational division.
In most nations, the term "naval", as opposed to "navy", is
interpreted as encompassing all maritime military forces, e.g., navy,
naval infantry/marine corps, and coast guard forces.
1 Etymology and meanings
5 Naval organization
6 Naval infantry
7 Naval aviation
8 Additional reading
9 See also
12 External links
Etymology and meanings
First attested in English in the early 14th century, the word
"navy" came via
Old French navie, "fleet of ships", from the Latin
navigium, "a vessel, a ship, bark, boat", from navis, "ship".
The word "naval" came from
Latin navalis, "pertaining to ship"; cf.
Greek ναῦς (naus), "ship", ναύτης (nautes), "seaman,
sailor". The earliest attested form of the word is in the Mycenaean
Greek compound word 𐀙𐀄𐀈𐀗, na-u-do-mo (*naudomoi),
"shipbuilders", written in
Linear B syllabic script.[n 1]
The word formerly denoted fleets of both commercial and military
nature. In modern usage "navy" used alone always denotes a military
fleet, although the term "merchant navy" for a commercial fleet still
incorporates the non-military word sense. This overlap in word senses
between commercial and military fleets grew out of the inherently
dual-use nature of fleets; centuries ago, nationality was a trait that
unified a fleet across both civilian and military uses. Although
nationality of commercial vessels has little importance in peacetime
trade other than for tax avoidance, it can have greater meaning during
wartime, when supply chains become matters of patriotic attack and
defense, and when in some cases private vessels are even temporarily
converted to military vessels. The latter was especially important,
and common, before 20th-century military technology existed, when
merely adding artillery and naval infantry to any sailing vessel could
render it fully as martial as any military-owned vessel. Such
privateering has been rendered obsolete in blue-water strategy since
modern missile and aircraft systems grew to leapfrog over artillery
and infantry in many respects; but privateering nevertheless remains
potentially relevant in littoral warfare of a limited and asymmetric
Naval warfare and Naval history
HMS Victory, the oldest warship still in commission in the world.
Dreadnoughts of the
High Seas Fleet
High Seas Fleet of World War I.
Naval warfare developed when humans first fought from water-borne
vessels. Prior to the introduction of the cannon and ships with
sufficient capacity to carry the large guns, navy warfare primarily
involved ramming and boarding actions. In the time of ancient Greece
and the Roman Empire, naval warfare centered on long, narrow vessels
powered by banks of oarsmen (such as triremes and quinqueremes)
designed to ram and sink enemy vessels or come alongside the enemy
vessel so its occupants could be attacked hand-to-hand. Naval warfare
continued in this vein through the
Middle Ages until the cannon became
commonplace and capable of being reloaded quickly enough to be reused
in the same battle. The
Chola Dynasty of medieval
India was known as
one of the greatest naval powers of its time from 300 BC to 1279 AD.
The Chola Navy, Chola kadarpadai comprised the naval forces of the
Chola Empire along with several other Naval-arms of the country. The
Chola navy played a vital role in the expansion of the Chola Tamil
kingdom, including the conquest of the
Sri Lanka islands, Kadaaram
(Present day Burma), Sri Vijaya (present day Southeast Asia), the
spread of Hinduism,
Tamil architecture and
Tamil culture to Southeast
Asia and in curbing the piracy in Southeast Asia in 900 CE. In ancient
China, large naval battles were known since the
Qin Dynasty (also see
Battle of Red Cliffs, 208), employing the war junk during the Han
Dynasty. However, China's first official standing navy was not
established until the Southern
Song dynasty in the 12th century, a
time when gunpowder was a revolutionary new application to warfare.
The mass and deck space required to carry a large number of cannon
made oar-based propulsion impossible, and ships came to rely primarily
on sails. Warships were designed to carry increasing numbers of cannon
and naval tactics evolved to bring a ship's firepower to bear in a
broadside, with ships-of-the-line arranged in a line of battle.
The development of large capacity, sail-powered ships carrying cannon
led to a rapid expansion of European navies, especially the Spanish
and Portuguese navies which dominated in the 16th and early 17th
centuries, and helped propel the age of exploration and colonialism.
The repulsion of the
Spanish Armada (1588) by the English fleet
revolutionized naval warfare by the success of a guns-only strategy
and caused a major overhaul of the Spanish Navy, partly along English
lines, which resulted in even greater dominance by the Spanish. From
the beginning of the 17th century the Dutch cannibalized the
Portuguese Empire in the East and, with the immense wealth gained,
challenged Spanish hegemony at sea. From the 1620s, Dutch raiders
seriously troubled Spanish shipping and, after a number of battles
which went both ways, the
Dutch Navy finally broke the long dominance
Spanish Navy in the
Battle of the Downs
Battle of the Downs (1639).
England emerged as a major naval power in the mid-17th century in the
first Anglo-Dutch war with a technical victory. Successive decisive
Dutch victories in the second and third
Anglo-Dutch Wars confirmed the
Dutch mastery of the seas during the Dutch Golden Age, financed by the
expansion of the Dutch Empire. The
French Navy won some important
victories near the end of the 17th century but a focus upon land
forces led to the French Navy's relative neglect, which allowed the
Royal Navy to emerge with an ever-growing advantage in size and
quality, especially in tactics and experience, from 1695. Throughout
the 18th century the
Royal Navy gradually gained ascendancy over the
French Navy, with victories in the War of Spanish Succession
(1701–1714), inconclusive battles in the War of Austrian Succession
(1740–1748), victories in the
Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War (1754–1763), a
partial reversal during the American War of Independence
(1775–1783), and consolidation into uncontested supremacy during the
19th century from the
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. These conflicts saw
the development and refinement of tactics which came to be called the
line of battle.
Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz
The next stage in the evolution of naval warfare was the introduction
of metal plating along the hull sides. The increased mass required
steam-powered engines, resulting in an arms race between armor and
weapon thickness and firepower. The first armored vessels, the French
Gloire and British HMS Warrior, made wooden vessels obsolete.
Another significant improvement came with the invention of the
rotating turrets, which allowed the guns to be aimed independently of
ship movement. The battle between CSS Virginia and
USS Monitor during the
American Civil War
American Civil War (1861–1865) is often
cited as the beginning of this age of maritime conflict. The Russian
Navy was considered the third strongest in the world on the eve of the
Russo-Japanese War, which turned to be a catastrophe for the Russian
military in general and the
Russian Navy in particular. Although
neither party lacked courage, the Russians were defeated by the
Japanese in the Battle of
Port Arthur, which was the first time in
warfare that mines were used for offensive purposes. The warships of
the Baltic Fleet sent to the Far East were lost in the Battle of
Tsushima. A further step change in naval firepower occurred when the
United Kingdom launched HMS
Dreadnought in 1906, but naval
tactics still emphasized the line of battle.
The first practical military submarines were developed in the late
19th century and by the end of
World War I
World War I had proven to be a powerful
arm of naval warfare. During World War II, Nazi Germany's submarine
fleet of U-boats almost starved the
United Kingdom into submission and
inflicted tremendous losses on U.S. coastal shipping. The German
battleship Tirpitz, a sister ship of Bismarck, was almost put out
of action by miniature submarines known as X-Craft. The X-Craft
severely damaged her and kept her in port for some months.
A major paradigm shift in naval warfare occurred with the introduction
of the aircraft carrier. First at Taranto in 1940 and then at Pearl
Harbor in 1941, the carrier demonstrated its ability to strike
decisively at enemy ships out of sight and range of surface vessels.
Battle of Leyte Gulf
Battle of Leyte Gulf (1944) was arguably the largest naval battle
in history; it was also the last battle in which battleships played a
significant role. By the end of World War II, the carrier had become
the dominant force of naval warfare.
World War II
World War II also saw the
United States become by far the largest
Naval power in the world. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries,
Navy possessed over 70% of the world's total numbers
and total tonnage of naval vessels of 1,000 tons or greater.
Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the
maintain a tonnage greater than that of the next 17 largest navies
combined. During the Cold War, the
Soviet Navy became a significant
armed force, with large numbers of large, heavily armed ballistic
missile submarines and extensive use of heavy, long-ranged antisurface
missiles to counter the numerous
United States carrier battle groups.
Only three nations (United States, France, and Brazil) presently
CATOBAR carriers of any size, while Russia,
China and India
STOBAR carriers (although all three are originally of
Russian design). The
United Kingdom is also currently constructing two
Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, which will be the largest STOVL
vessels in service, and
India is currently building two Vikrant-class
aircraft carriers (the second one with
CATOBAR technology) and
France is also looking at a new carrier, probably
CATOBAR system and possibly based on the British Queen
HMS Invincible sails towards the
Falkland Islands during the
Falklands War. The
Falklands War was the largest naval conflict since
World War II
Navy officers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln
monitor defense systems during maritime security operations. Navies
may conduct military operations other than war.
A navy typically operates from one or more naval bases. The base is a
port that is specialized in naval operations, and often includes
housing, a munitions depot, docks for the vessels, and various repair
facilities. During times of war temporary bases may be constructed in
closer proximity to strategic locations, as it is advantageous in
terms of patrols and station-keeping. Nations with historically strong
naval forces have found it advantageous to obtain basing rights in
other countries in areas of strategic interest.
Navy ships can operate independently or with a group, which may be a
small squadron of comparable ships, or a larger naval fleet of various
specialized ships. The commander of a fleet travels in the flagship,
which is usually the most powerful vessel in the group. Prior to the
invention of radio, commands from the flagship were communicated by
means of flags. At night signal lamps could be used for a similar
purpose. Later these were replaced by the radio transmitter, or the
flashing light when radio silence was needed.
A "blue water navy" is designed to operate far from the coastal waters
of its home nation. These are ships capable of maintaining station for
long periods of time in deep ocean, and will have a long logistical
tail for their support. Many are also nuclear powered to save having
to refuel. By contrast a "brown water navy" operates in the coastal
periphery and along inland waterways, where larger ocean-going naval
vessels can not readily enter. Regional powers may maintain a "green
water navy" as a means of localized force projection. Blue water
fleets may require specialized vessels, such as minesweepers, when
operating in the littoral regions along the coast.
Main article: Naval tradition
Ship's bell of ORP Iskra II -
Polish Navy school tall ship
A basic tradition is that all ships commissioned in a navy are
referred to as ships rather than vessels, with the exception of
submarines, which are known as boats. The prefix on a ship's name
indicates that it is a commissioned ship.
An important tradition on board naval vessels of some nations has been
the ship's bell. This was historically used to mark the passage of
time, as warning devices in heavy fog, and for alarms and ceremonies.
The ship's captain, and more senior officers are "piped" aboard the
ship using a Boatswain's call.
In the United States, the
First Navy Jack
First Navy Jack is a flag that has the
words, "Don't Tread on Me" on the flag.
By English tradition, ships have been referred to as a "she". However,
it was long considered bad luck to permit women to sail on board naval
vessels. To do so would invite a terrible storm that would wreck the
ship. The only women that were welcomed on board were figureheads
mounted on the prow of the ship.
Firing a cannon salute partially disarms the ship, so firing a cannon
for no combat reason showed respect and trust. As the tradition
evolved, the number of cannon fired became an indication of the rank
of the official being saluted.
Sejong the Great-class destroyer
Sejong the Great-class destroyer of the Republic of Korea Navy
Typhoon-class submarines are the largest submarines ever built.
INS Shivalik is a stealth frigate of the Indian Navy
Main article: Naval ship
Historically, navy ships were primarily intended for warfare. They
were designed to withstand damage and to inflict the same, but only
carried munitions and supplies for the voyage (rather than merchant
cargo). Often, other ships which were not built specifically for
warfare, such as the galleon or the armed merchant ships in World War
II, did carry armaments. In more recent times, navy ships have become
more specialized and have included supply ships, troop transports,
repair ships, oil tankers and other logistics support ships as well as
Modern navy combat ships are generally divided into seven main
categories: aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates,
corvettes, submarines, and amphibious assault ships. There are also
support and auxiliary ships, including the oiler, minesweeper, patrol
boat, hydrographic and oceanographic survey ship and tender. During
the age of sail, the ship categories were divided into the ship of the
line, frigate, and sloop-of-war.
Naval ship names are typically prefixed by an abbreviation indicating
the national navy in which they serve. For a list of the prefixes used
with ship names (HMS, USS, LÉ, etc.) see ship prefix.
Today ships are significantly faster than in former times, thanks to
much improved propulsion systems. Also, the efficiency of the engines
has improved, in terms of fuel, and of how many sailors it takes to
operate them. In World War II, ships needed to refuel very often.
However, today ships can go on very long journeys without refueling.
Also, in World War II, the engine room needed about a dozen sailors to
work the many engines, however, today, only about 4–5 are needed
(depending on the class of the ship). Today, naval strike groups on
longer missions are always followed by a range of support and
replenishment ships supplying them with anything from fuel and
munitions, to medical treatment and postal services. This allows
strike groups and combat ships to remain at sea for several months at
Royal Canadian Navy's Orca-class patrol vessel
The term "boat" refers to small craft limited in their use by size and
usually not capable of making lengthy independent voyages at sea. The
old navy adage to differentiate between ships and boats is that boats
are capable of being carried by ships. (Submarines by this rule are
ships rather than boats, but are customarily referred to as boats
reflecting their previous smaller size.)
Navies use many types of boat, ranging from 9-foot (2.7 m)
dinghies to 135-foot (41 m) landing craft. They are powered by
either diesel engines, out-board gasoline engines, or waterjets. Most
boats are built of aluminum, fiberglass, or steel. Rigid-hulled
inflatable boats are also used.
Patrol boats are used for patrols of coastal areas, lakes and large
PT-76 light amphibious tank moves down the ramp of an
Landing craft are designed to carry troops, vehicles, or cargo from
ship to shore under combat conditions, to unload, to withdraw from the
beach, and to return to the ship. They are rugged, with powerful
engines, and usually armed. There are many types in today's navies
including hovercraft. They will typically have a power-operated bow
ramp, a cargo well and after structures that house engine rooms, pilot
houses, and stowage compartments. These boats are sometimes carried by
Special operations craft are high-speed craft used for insertion and
extraction of special forces personnel and some may be transportable
(and deployed) by air.
Boats used in non-combat roles include lifeboats, mail boats, line
handling boats, buoy boats, aircraft rescue boats, torpedo retrievers,
explosive ordnance disposal craft, utility boats, dive boats, targets,
and work boats. Boats are also used for survey work, tending divers,
and minesweeping operations. Boats for carrying cargo and personnel
are sometimes known as launches, gigs, barges or shore party boats.
Naval forces are typically arranged into units based on the number of
ships included, a single ship being the smallest operational unit.
Ships may be combined into squadrons or flotillas, which may be formed
into fleets. The largest unit size may be the whole
Navy or Admiralty.
A task force can be assembled using ships from different fleets for an
Ships of the multinational fleet Combined Task Force 150
Indonesian Navy officers
Despite their acceptance in many areas of naval service, female
sailors were not permitted to serve on board U.S. submarines until the
Navy lifted the ban in April 2010. The major reasons
historically cited by the U.S.
Navy were the extended duty tours and
close conditions which afford almost no privacy. The United Kingdom's
Royal Navy has had similar restrictions. Australia, Canada, Norway,
Spain previously opened submarine service to women sailors.
Chinese sailors, 2009
Main article: Naval officer ranks
Newly commissioned officers celebrate their new positions by throwing
their midshipmen covers into the air as part of a U.S. Naval Academy
graduation and commissioning ceremony.
A navy will typically have two sets of ranks, one for enlisted
personnel and one for officers.
Typical ranks for commissioned officers include the following, in
ascending order (Commonwealth ranks are listed first on each line; USA
ranks are listed second in those instances where they differ from
Midshipman / Ensign /
Sub Lieutenant /
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Lieutenant Junior Grade /
Lieutenant (Commonwealth & USA)/ Ship-of-the-Line
Commander (Commonwealth & USA)/
Commander (Commonwealth & USA)/
Captain (Commonwealth & USA)/ Ship-of-the-Line Captain
Admiral (in USA only:
Rear Admiral (lower half))
Rear Admiral (in USA only:
Rear Admiral (upper half))
Vice Admiral (Commonwealth & USA)
Admiral (Commonwealth & USA)
Admiral of the Fleet (Commonwealth) / Fleet
Admiral (USA) / Grand
"Flag officers" include any rank that includes the word "admiral" (or
commodore in services other than the US Navy), and are generally in
command of a battle group, strike group or similar flotilla of ships,
rather than a single ship or aspect of a ship. However, commodores can
also be temporary or honorary positions. For example, during World War
Navy captain was assigned duty as a convoy commodore, which
meant that he was still a captain, but in charge of all the merchant
vessels in the convoy.
The most senior rank employed by a navy will tend to vary depending on
the size of the navy and whether it is wartime or peacetime, for
example, few people have ever held the rank of Fleet
Admiral in the
U.S. Navy, the chief of the
Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy holds the rank of
Vice Admiral, and the chief of the
Irish Naval Service
Irish Naval Service holds the rank
Main article: Marines
Jaubert commandos of the
French Navy demonstrating a mock, seaborne
assault on the support vessel Alcyon.
Spanish Navy Marines
Naval infantry, commonly known as marines, are a category of infantry
that form part of a state’s naval forces and perform roles on land
and at sea, including amphibious operations, as well as other, naval
roles. They also perform other tasks, including land warfare, separate
from naval operations.
During the era of the Roman empire, naval forces included marine
legionaries for maritime boarding actions. These were troops primarily
trained in land warfare, and did not need to be skilled at handling a
ship. Much later during the age of sail, a component of marines served
a similar role, being ship-borne soldiers who were used either during
boarding actions, as sharp-shooters, or in raids along shorelines.
Infantería de Marina
Infantería de Marina was formed in 1537, making it the
oldest, current marine force in the world. The British Royal Marines
combine being both a ship-based force and also being specially trained
in commando-style operations and tactics, operating in some cases
separately from the rest of the Royal Navy. The Royal
have their own special forces unit.
In the majority of countries, the marine force is an integral part of
the navy. The
United States Marine Corps is a separate armed service
United States Department of the Navy, with its own
Sea Harrier on the flight deck of an
Indian Navy aircraft carrier in
Main article: Naval aviation
Naval aviation is the application of military air power by navies,
whether from warships that embark aircraft, or land bases.
World War I
World War I several navies used floatplanes and flying boats -
mainly for scouting. By World War II, aircraft carriers could carry
bomber aircraft capable of attacking naval and land targets, as well
as fighter aircraft for defence. Since
World War II
World War II helicopters have
been embarked on smaller ships in roles such as anti-submarine warfare
and transport. Some navies have also operated land-based aircraft in
roles such as maritime patrol and training.
Naval aviation forces primarily perform naval roles at sea. However,
they are also used in a variety of other roles.
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Wombacher, Joerg and Joerg Felfe. (2012) United We Are Strong: An
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Alan Lewrie series by Dewey Lambdin
Aubrey–Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian
Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester
Richard Bolitho series by Alexander Kent (Pseudonym of Douglas Reeman)
Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising
List of naval battles
List of navies
Number of warships in service worldwide
List of submarine classes in service
List of naval ship classes in service
List of auxiliary ship classes in service
Modern naval tactics
Navies of landlocked countries
^ Found on the KN U 736, PY Na 568, PY Vn 865 and PY Xn 990
^ Harper, Douglas. "navy". Online Etymology Dictionary.
^ navigium. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A
Latin Dictionary on
^ navis. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A
Latin Dictionary on
^ navalis. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A
Latin Dictionary on
^ ναῦς. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English
Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
^ ναύτης in Liddell and Scott.
Linear B word na-u-do-mo". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of
^ Raymoure, K.A. "na-u-do-mo". Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear
^ "KN 736 U (unknown)". "PY 568 Na (1)". "PY 865 Vn + fr.
(Ci)". "PY 990 Xn (unknown)". DĀMOS: Database of Mycenaean at
Oslo. University of Oslo. Archived from the original on
^ Weighing the US
Navy Defense & Security Analysis, Volume 17,
Issue December 3, 2001, pp 259-265
^ "The Associated Press: Biden notes big year, sub service for Navy
women". 1 June 2010. Archived from the original on 1 June
2010. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
^ "NATO Review - Vol. 49 - No 2 - Summer 2001".
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Navy at Scottish Military Heritage Centre
"Navy, The". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.
Air defense force