Special Report

This Nation Has the Largest Navy in the World

usnavy / Flickr

Between the 18th to the early 20th centuries, from the Battle of Trafalgar to World War II, the British Royal Navy for the most part had undisputed power over the world’s oceans and controlled the seas. This enabled Britain and its allies to move supplies and troops with more ease during times of war, while the enemy could not. Post World War II, the United States Navy overtook Britain in both size and power, becoming the dominant force on the water. 

The era of massive navies controlling the seas, trade, and borders, has ended. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the U.S. no longer has command of the high seas. Due to the rise of the Chinese Navy and the return of the Russian Navy, serious challenges have arisen, and although America has a global naval influence, it has been unable to exert local sea control.  

Today, technology has advanced to the point that a single advanced ship can dominate an engagement against older vessels. An American Zumwalt-class destroyer has the potential to be armed with 80 of a variety of highly advanced cruise, anti-submarine, and anti-ship missiles, and are currently being refitted with hypersonic missiles. But while technological advancement is important, there is still strength in numbers. For countries with widespread interests, it’s important to have plenty of naval vessels. 

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the defense statistics website GlobalFirepower’s 2023 naval forces database with information about 145 countries’ militaries to determine the nation with the largest navy in the world. We ranked countries according to the number of naval vessels in their military, starting at 150 vessels, and included the number of vessels in four classes of vessels. Data on notable ships came mostly from Military Factory, among other sources. Data on total military spending and military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product came from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Military Expenditure Database.

Following a relentless military buildup, China now has the world’s largest navy. This is cause for concern for Taiwan, which is about 100 miles east across the Taiwan Strait from the Chinese mainland. China has more submarines, destroyers, frigates, and corvettes than any other nation. Russia, traditionally a land power that has historically sought ice-free ports, is second in total vessels. 

The United States may not be the largest navy in the world, coming in at number four, but they are buttressed by 11 aircraft carriers, more than any other country. In terms of quality and firepower, the U.S. Navy has no equal in the world. (Here are 11 new warships that will join the U.S. Navy fleet.)

The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, once the world’s most powerful navy until World War II, is not even among the top 21 largest navies at sea. This is a big indicator of how times have changed.

Here is the nation with the largest navy in the world

 

21. Turkey

  • Naval fleet size: 154
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 25 — #9 most of 145
  • Submarines: 12 — #9 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 34 — #32 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Anadolu (L-400) — amphibious assault ship
  • Military spending, 2021: $15.5 billion — #18 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 2.1% — #45 most of 145

20. Japan

  • Naval fleet size: 155
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 46 — #4 most of 145
  • Submarines: 21 — #6 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 6 — #90 most of 145
  • Notable ship: JS Izumo (DDH-183) — helicopter carrier
  • Military spending, 2021: $54.1 billion — #9 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.1% — #106 most of 145

19. South Korea

  • Naval fleet size: 157
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 38 — #6 most of 145
  • Submarines: 22 — #5 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 35 — #31 most of 145
  • Notable ship: ROKS Daegu (FFG-818) — Daegu-class frigate
  • Military spending, 2021: $50.2 billion — #10 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 2.8% — #28 most of 145

18. Spain

  • Naval fleet size: 166
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 11 — #24 most of 145
  • Submarines: 2 — #40 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 23 — #45 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Juan Carlos I (L61) — amphibious assault ship
  • Military spending, 2021: $19.5 billion — #16 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.4% — #86 most of 145

17. Bolivia

  • Naval fleet size: 170
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 0 — #66 most of 145
  • Submarines: N/A
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 49 — #17 most of 145
  • Notable ship: PR51 Santa Cruz de la Sierra — offshore patrol vessel
  • Military spending, 2021: $625.3 million — #82 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.5% — #73 most of 145

16. Mexico

  • Naval fleet size: 194
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 20 — #12 most of 145
  • Submarines: N/A
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 150 — #5 most of 145
  • Notable ship: ARM Revolucion (P-164) — offshore patrol vessel
  • Military spending, 2021: $8.7 billion — #28 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 0.7% — #126 most of 145

15. Algeria

  • Naval fleet size: 201
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 11 — #24 most of 145
  • Submarines: 6 — #17 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 25 — #42 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Kalaat Beni Abbes — amphibious transport dock
  • Military spending, 2021: $9.1 billion — #26 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 5.6% — #4 most of 145

14. Myanmar

  • Naval fleet size: 210
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 8 — #36 most of 145
  • Submarines: 2 — #38 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 124 — #7 most of 145
  • Notable ship: UMS Min Ye Kyaw Htin — attack submarine
  • Military spending, 2021: $2.1 billion — #60 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 3.3% — #17 most of 145

13. Egypt

  • Naval fleet size: 245
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 20 — #12 most of 145
  • Submarines: 8 — #14 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 48 — #19 most of 145
  • Notable ship: ENS Gamal Abdel Nasser (L1010) — amphibious assault ship
  • Military spending, 2021: $5.2 billion — #43 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.3% — #93 most of 145

12. Finland

  • Naval fleet size: 246
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 0 — #66 most of 145
  • Submarines: N/A
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 8 — #83 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Rauma — Rauma-class missile boat
  • Military spending, 2021: $5.9 billion — #37 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 2.0% — #46 most of 145

11. Colombia

  • Naval fleet size: 265
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 11 — #24 most of 145
  • Submarines: 4 — #29 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 53 — #15 most of 145
  • Notable ship: ARC Gloria — training ship
  • Military spending, 2021: $10.2 billion — #25 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 3.4% — #16 most of 145

10. Sri Lanka

  • Naval fleet size: 275
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 5 — #46 most of 145
  • Submarines: N/A
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 59 — #13 most of 145
  • Notable ship: SLNS Gajabahu (P626) — offshore patrol vessel
  • Military spending, 2021: $1.6 billion — #64 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.9% — #54 most of 145

9. Thailand

  • Naval fleet size: 292
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 13 — #18 most of 145
  • Submarines: N/A
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 49 — #18 most of 145
  • Notable ship: HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG-471) — frigate
  • Military spending, 2021: $6.6 billion — #33 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.3% — #89 most of 145

8. India

  • Naval fleet size: 295
  • Number of aircraft carriers: 2 — #2 most of 7
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 42 — #5 most of 145
  • Submarines: 18 — #8 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 138 — #6 most of 145
  • Notable ship: INS Vikrant — aircraft carrier
  • Military spending, 2021: $76.6 billion — #3 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 2.7% — #30 most of 145

7. Italy

  • Naval fleet size: 313
  • Number of aircraft carriers: 2 — #2 most of 7
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 17 — #15 most of 145
  • Submarines: 8 — #15 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 18 — #57 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Giuseppe Garibaldi — aircraft carrier
  • Military spending, 2021: $32.0 billion — #11 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.5% — #75 most of 145

6. Indonesia

  • Naval fleet size: 324
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 31 — #7 most of 145
  • Submarines: 4 — #30 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 202 — #2 most of 145
  • Notable ship: KRI Banda Aceh (LPD-593) — landing platform dock
  • Military spending, 2021: $8.3 billion — #29 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 0.7% — #125 most of 145

5. Sweden

  • Naval fleet size: 367
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 7 — #40 most of 145
  • Submarines: 5 — #25 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 298 — #1 most of 145
  • Notable ship: HSwMS Karlstad (K35) — corvette
  • Military spending, 2021: $7.9 billion — #32 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.3% — #95 most of 145

4. United States

  • Naval fleet size: 484
  • Number of aircraft carriers: 11 — #1 most of 7
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 114 — #2 most of 145
  • Submarines: 68 — #3 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 10 — #81 most of 145
  • Notable ship: USS Gerald R. Ford — aircraft carrier
  • Military spending, 2021: $800.7 billion — #1 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 3.5% — #15 most of 145

3. North Korea

  • Naval fleet size: 519
  • Number of aircraft carriers: N/A
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 5 — #46 most of 145
  • Submarines: 35 — #4 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 169 — #3 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Sinpo-class — submarine
  • Military spending, 2021: N/A
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: N/A

2. Russia

  • Naval fleet size: 598
  • Number of aircraft carriers: 1 — #6 most of 7
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 112 — #3 most of 145
  • Submarines: 70 — #2 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 59 — #12 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Admiral Kuznetsov — aircraft carrier
  • Military spending, 2021: $65.9 billion — #5 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 4.1% — #11 most of 145

1. China

  • Naval fleet size: 730
  • Number of aircraft carriers: 2 — #2 most of 7
  • Destroyers, frigates, and corvettes: 165 — #1 most of 145
  • Submarines: 78 — #1 most of 145
  • Offshore patrol vessels: 150 — #4 most of 145
  • Notable ship: Liaoning — aircraft carrier
  • Military spending, 2021: $293.4 billion — #2 highest of 145
  • Military spending as pct. of GDP: 1.7% — #63 most of 145

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