Thursday, September 06, 2012

Getting it Right; Naval Power projections

            Today when describing the combat capability of any Navy most people use the terms blue water, green water, and brown water navies to describe the combat capability of a fleet.  While seemingly convenient this form of classification does cause some confusion, as it is based on geographical region rather than on combat capability.  For instance countries like Iran, Germany, Thailand, Sweden, Taiwan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey are classified as brown water fleets despite the fact they have capabilities equal and superior to countries like Chile and Singapore which are classified as green water fleets.  Similarly the Russian and Chinese Navies, which are more powerful than the fleets of France and Great Britain, are often rate4d as green water fleets to the latter’s blue water fleets.  If anything, these examples show that the geographical location does not determine combat capability.  To add further confusion the term green water fleets has been used by governments to describe the fuel efficiency of their ships, and the criteria for blue water fleet has changed repeatedly over the past few decades as strategy and tactics change.

            Almost a century ago the Navies of the World based their strength ratings entirely on combat capability, namely who had how many Capital Ships, could they support a fleet away from their home shores while protecting their native land, and could they produce weapons independent of any outside power.  This criteria should be applied rather than a geographic location for more accurate assessments of Naval power.  Consider how many Fleets classified as green water navies like Brazil and Chile are dependent on imports, the latter having no Naval industry whatsoever, which is a hindrance in a conflict, as the Argentines found out during the Falklands War.  Consider how countries like Russia, China, and India tend to be classified as green water fleets despite the fact they possess many Capital Ships and can send their forces anywhere in the World, not to mention the fact that their navies are larger and more powerful than the blue water fleets of France and the UK, and that Russia and China can match the US navy in terms of power projection.

            Interestingly enough the German Navy is not often mentioned as a green water fleet, despite the fact that they can deploy their forces anywhere in the World, and that countries like India, South Korea, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Greece, South Africa, Argentina, Peru, Nigeria, Israel to name a few use and in some cases are dependent on German technology in their fleets.  One reason for this lack of inclusion is that Germany, like Japan, has a constitution imposed on it at the end of WWII which prevents it from having offensive weapons.  While Japan has to deal with perceived threats from China and North Korea, allowing it to have Aircraft Carriers, though under the classification of “Helicopter Destroyer” the reunification of Germany and the collapse of the communist regime in Russia Germany has no proper threats, which explains why it’s Brandenburg, Sachsen, and Baden-Wuerttemberg classes of Destroyers are called “Command Frigates” and plans to acquire Juan Carlos I class Aircraft Carrier/Amphibious Assault Ships or Johan de Witt class Amphibious Assault Ships have met with opposition from German politicians.  The Netherlands, though having a relatively small Navy, has advanced equipment and has exported their weapons to countries which continue to use their material including Indonesia, Morocco, Peru, Chile, Portugal, Belgium, Malaysia.  The Spanish Juan Carlos I Aircraft Carrier/Amphibious Assault Ship has received attention from the US Navy which has begun to incorporate features in the new America class of Amphibious Assault Ship, and the French have worked with the Russians in building a more heavily armed version of the Mistral class Amphibious Assault Ship.

            The last two instances are important for it shows that larger fleets can learn and be taken to task by smaller fleets, the Spanish/American example of a smaller fleet familiarizing a larger one with new innovation, the French/Russian example of a smaller fleet familiarizing a larger one with a new weapon concept it is unfamiliar with.  Certainly such sharing of technology goes beyond the scope of geographical boundaries and magnify the projection of the Naval power of that country by making other nations, including those superior in capability, dependent on them for basic needs.

            It is even prudent to rate the capabilities of Fleets as well as the Fleets overall.  For instance the Navies of Germany and Iran have second rate battle fleets but first rate military industrial capability, while the Navies of Brazil and Australia have first rate battle fleets but second rate military industrial capability.  Many publicly overrated Navies, like those of Israel, South Africa, Taiwan, Argentina, Saudi Arabia have second rate battle fleets but third rate military industrial capability.

            One has to be careful in using new methods of rating the Navies of other countries, and the more one looks at methods that have stood the test of time one learns not to question them.


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