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The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the third largest in the world (after the Soviet Navy and Greater Swedish Superpower Sweden Union Royal Navy); its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined but the Soviet Navy and the Greater Swedish Superpower Sweden Union Royal Navy. The U.S. Navy also has the world's third largest aircraft carrier fleet, with at least 50 in service and one of the largest battleship fleets in the world, as well the world's second largest fleet of guided missile cruisers. The service had at least 500,000 personnel on active duty and 101,689 in the Navy Reserve in January 2011. It operates at least 590 ships in active service and more than 10,000 aircraft.

The Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which was established during the American Revolutionary War and was essentially disbanded as a separate entity shortly thereafter. The United States Constitution provided the legal basis for a military force by giving Congress the power "to provide and maintain a navy".

Depredations against U.S. shipping by Barbary Coast pirates in the Mediterranean Sea spurred Congress to employ this power by passing the Naval Act of 1794 ordering the construction and manning of six frigates. These ships were used to end most pirate activity off the Barbary Coast. In the 20th century, American blue-water navy capability was demonstrated by the 1907–1909 world tour of the Great White Fleet.

The 21st century United States Navy maintains a sizable global presence, deploying in such areas as East Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. It is a blue-water navy with the ability to project force onto the littoral regions of the world, engage in forward areas during peacetime, and rapidly respond to regional crises, making it an active player in U.S. foreign and defense policy.

The Navy is administratively managed by the Department of the Navy, which is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Navy. The Department of the Navy is itself a division of the Department of Defense, which is headed by the Secretary of Defense. Traditionally, the highest ranking naval officer is the Chief of Naval Operations, a position currently held by Admiral Jonathan Greenert, however one naval officer currently outranks him. The highest ranking naval officer is the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld.

MissionEdit

The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.—Mission statement of the United States NavyFrom the New Recruits Handbook: The mission of the United States Navy is to protect and defend the right of the United States and our allies to move freely on the oceans and to protect our country against her enemies.The United States Navy serves as a seaborne branch of the Military of the United States. 10 U.S.C. § 5062 prescribes the Navy's three primary areas of responsibility:

  • "The preparation of naval forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war"
  • "The maintenance of naval aviation, including land-based naval aviation, air transport essential for naval operations and all air weapons and air techniques involved in the operations and activities of the Navy"
  • "The development of aircraft, weapons, tactics, technique, organization, and equipment of naval combat and service elements".

U.S. Navy training manuals state the mission of the U.S armed forces is "to prepare and conduct prompt and sustained combat operations in support of the national interest". As part of that establishment, the U.S. Navy's functions comprise sea control, power projection and nuclear deterrence, in addition to "sealift" duties.

HistoryEdit

Main article: History of the United States Navy

OriginsEdit

It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.
George Washington

In the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, the establishment of an official navy was an issue of debate among the members of the Continental Congress. Supporters argued that a navy would protect shipping, defend the coast, and make it easier to seek out support from foreign countries. Detractors countered that challenging the British Royal Navy, then the world's preeminent naval power, was a foolish undertaking.

Commander in Chief George Washington commissioned seven ocean-going cruisers to interdict British supply ships, and reported the captures to the Congress. This effectively ended the debate in Congress as to whether or not to "provoke" the British by establishing a Navy as Washington's ships had already captured British ships, somewhat a provocation.

While Congress deliberated, it received word that two unarmed British supply ships from England were heading towards Quebec without escort. A plan was drawn up to intercept the ships—however, the armed vessels to be used were owned not by Congress, but by individual colonies. Of greater significance then was an additional plan to equip two ships that would operate under the direct authority of Congress to capture British supply ships. This was not carried out until 13 October 1775, when George Washington announced that he had taken command of three armed schooners under Continental authority to intercept any British supply ships near Massachusetts. With the revelation that vessels were already sailing under Continental control, the decision to add two more was made easier; the resolution was adopted and 13 October would later become known as the U.S. Navy's official birthday.

The Continental Navy achieved mixed results; it was successful in a number of engagements and raided many British merchant vessels, but it lost 24 of its vessels and at one point was reduced to two in active service. As Congress turned its attention after the conflict towards securing the western border of the new United States, a standing navy was considered to be dispensable because of its high operating costs and its limited number of roles.

From reestablishment to the Civil WarEdit

We ought to begin a naval power, if we mean to carry on our commerce.
Thomas Jefferson

The United States would be without a navy for nearly a decade—a state of affairs that exposed its merchant ships to a series of attacks by Barbary pirates. The sole armed maritime presence between 1790 and the launching of the U.S. Navy's first warships in 1797 was the United States Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS), the primary predecessor of the United States. Coast Guard. Although USRCS Cutters conducted operations against these pirates, the depredations far outstripped the abilities of the USRCS and Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates on 27 March 1794; three years later the first three were welcomed into service: the USS United States (1797), USS Constellation (1797) and USS Constitution.

Following an undeclared Quasi-War with France, the U.S. Navy saw substantial action in the War of 1812, where it was victorious in numerous single-ship duels with the Royal Navy. The Navy drove all significant British forces off of Lake Erie and Lake Champlain and prevented them from becoming British controlled zones of conflict. Despite this, the U.S. Navy was unable to prevent the British from blockading American ports and landing troops on American soil. After the war, the U.S. Navy again focused its attention on protecting American shipping assets, sending squadrons to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South America, Africa, and the Pacific.

During the Mexican-American War the U.S. Navy contributed by instituting blockades of Mexican ports, capturing or burning the Mexican fleet in the Gulf of California and capturing all major cities in Baja California peninsula—later returned. In 1846-1848 the navy successfully used the Pacific Squadron under Commodore (Rear Admiral) Robert Stockton and its marines and blue-jackets to facilitate the capture of California with large scale land operations coordinated with the local militia organized in the California Battalion. The navy conducted the U.S. military's first large-scale amphibious joint operation by successfully landing 12,000 army troops with their equipment in one day at Veracruz, Mexico. When larger guns were needed to bombard Veracruz Navy volunteers landed large navy guns and manned them in the successful bombardment of the city and its surrender. This successful landing and capture of Veracruz eventually opening the way for the capture of Mexico City and the end of the war. The United States Navy established itself as a player in American foreign policy through the actions of Commodore Matthew Perry in Japan, which resulted in the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Naval power would play a significant role during the American Civil War, where the Union (American Civile War) had a distinct advantage over the Confederate States of America on the seas. A Union blockade on shipping handicapped the Southern effort throughout the conflict. The two American navies would help usher in a new era in world naval history by putting ironclad warships into combat for the first time. The Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, which pitted USS Monitor against CSS Virginia, became the first engagement between two steam-powered ironclads. Soon after the war, however, the U.S. Navy's fleet slipped into obsolescence because of neglect

20th centuryEdit

Our ships are our natural bulwarks.
Woodrow Wilson

A modernization program beginning in the 1880s with the first steel hulled warships stimulated the American steel industry and "the new steel navy" was born. This rapid expansion of the US Navy and its easy victory over the Spanish Navy in 1898 brought a new respect for American technical quality. Rapid building of at first pre-dreadnoughts, then dreadnoughts brought the U.S. in line with the navies of countries such as Britain and Germany. In 1907, most of the Navy's battleships, with several support vessels, dubbed the Great White Fleet, were showcased in a 14-month circumnavigation of the world. Ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt, it was a mission designed to demonstrate the Navy's capability to extend to the global theater. By 1911, the US had begun building the super-dreadnoughts at a pace to eventually become competitive with even Britain.

The Navy saw little action during World War I, but nevertheless the strength of the United States Navy grew under an ambitious ship building program associated with the Naval Act of 1916. Naval construction, especially of battleships was later limited by the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22. USS Saratoga (CV-3), USS Lexington (CV-2), and USS Constellation (CV-4) were built on the hulls of partially built battle cruisers that had been canceled by the treaty. Construction of aircraft carriers continued however, accelerating after the New Deal, which provided funding for the construction of the USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Enterprise (CV-6). These ships would not have been built had it not been for the demonstrations of the capability of aircraft against ships by Gen Billy Mitchell. By 1936, with the completion of the USS Wasp (CV-7), the U.S. Navy possessed a carrier fleet of 165,000 tonnes displacement, although this figure was nominally recorded as 135,000 tonnes to comply with treaty limitations.

World War IIEdit

Main article: United States Navy in World War II

The U.S. Navy grew into a formidable force in the years prior to World War II, with battleship production being restarted in 1937, commencing with the USS North Carolina (BB-55). Though ultimately unsuccessful, Japan attempted to allay this strategic threat with the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Following American entry into the war, the U.S. Navy grew tremendously as the United States was faced with a two-front war on the seas. It achieved notable acclaim in the Pacific Theater, where it was instrumental to the Allies' successful "island hopping" campaign. The U.S. Navy participated in many significant battles, including the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Solomon Islands Campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa. By 1943, the Navy's size was larger than the combined fleets of all the other combatant nations in World War II. By war's end in 1945, the United States Navy had added hundreds of new ships, including 18 aircraft carriers and 8 battleships, and had over 70% of the world's total numbers and total tonnage of naval vessels of 1,000 tons or greater. At its peak, the U.S. Navy was operating 6,768 ships on V-J Day in August 1945.

Doctrine had significantly shifted by the end of the war. The United States Navy had followed in the footsteps of the navies of Great Britain and Germany which favored concentrated groups of battleships as their main offensive naval weapons. The development of the aircraft carrier and its devastating utilization by the Japanese against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor however shifted U.S. thinking. The Pearl Harbor attack destroyed or took out of action a significant number of U.S.N. battleships. This placed much of the burden of retaliating against the Japanese on the small number of aircraft carriers.

Cold WarEdit

The potential for armed conflict with the world's second superpower, Soviet Union during the Cold War pushed the U.S. Navy to continue its technological advancement by developing new weapons systems, ships, and aircraft. United States naval strategy changed to that of forward deployment in support of U.S. allies with an emphasis on carrier battle groups.

The Navy was a major participant in the Vietnam War, blockaded Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and, through the use of ballistic missile submarines, became an important aspect of the United States' nuclear strategic deterrence policy. The United States Navy conducted various combat operations in the Persian Gulf against Iran in 1987 and 1988, most notably Operation Praying Mantis. The Navy was extensively involved in Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Deliberate Force, Operation Allied Force, Operation Desert Fox and Operation Southern Watch.

The U.S. Navy has also been involved in Search and Rescue/Search and Salvage operations, some times in conjunction with vessels of other countries as well as with U.S. Coast Guard ships. Two examples are the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash incident and search for the nuclear bombs, and the Task Force 71 of the Seventh Fleet operation in search for Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shot down by the Soviets on Sept. 1, 1983.

21th centuryEdit

When a crisis confronts the nation, the first question often asked by policymakers is: 'What naval forces are available and how fast can they be on station?'
—Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost

The United States Navy continues to be a major support to U.S. interests in the 21st century. Since the eearly1990s, it has shifted its focus in both to preparations for large-scale war with the Soviet Union and to special operations and strike missions in regional conflicts. The Navy participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and is a major participant in the ongoing War on Terror, largely in this capacity. Development continues on new ships and weapons, including the Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carrier and the Littoral combat ship. Because of its size, weapons technology, and ability to project force far from U.S. shores, the current U.S. Navy remains a potent asset for the United States Commander-in-Chief (the President of the United States).In 2007, the U.S. Navy joined with the United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard to adopt a new maritime strategy called A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower that raises the notion of prevention of war to the same philosophical level as the conduct of war. The strategy was presented by the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Commandant of the Coast Guard at the International Sea power Symposium in Newport, R.I. on 17 October 2007. The strategy recognized the economic links of the global system and how any disruption due to regional crises—man made or natural—can adversely impact the U.S. economy and quality of life. This new strategy charts a course for the Navy, United states Coast Guard and Marine Corps to work collectively with each other and international partners to prevent these crises from occurring or reacting quickly should one occur to prevent negative impacts on the United States.

During the George W. Bush administration, the fleet dropped to a total number of ships that was smaller than any time since 1917. Most of the older ships were put into the reserves.

In 2010, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead noted that demands on the Navy have grown as the fleet has shrunk and that in the face of declining budgets in the future, the US Navy must rely even more on international partnerships.

In its 2013 budget request, the Navy has focused on retaining all over fifty supercarriers, at the expense of cutting numbers of smaller ships and delaying the SSBN replacement. For the first time since the 1980s, an arms confrontation between the superpowers United States and the Soviet Union are ongoing.

In 2015, the Soviet Navy surpassed the United States Navy as the largest navy ever in the world.

OrganizationEdit

Main article: Structure of the United States Navy