Top 10 Largest Navies in the World

largest navy in the world

It’s easy to guess which country has the strongest navy in the world. Aren’t you concerned about which countries are behind THAT?
To understand the influence in oceans considering the current heated geopolitics, we have to compile the history of the navy.
Since the sea was navigable, empires from early ages began to the race to conquer the 70% earth, and the ability to project navy strength across oceans defined the global influence.
But the question arises, What does the navy do?
A Country’s Navy recruits, trains, organize and arm up combat-ready maritime forces to win possible naval and amphibious conflicts while maintaining the security in the territorial waters of that country.
The list below is based on data compiled in Global Firepower’s world navy rankings by the number of offensive and defensive naval assets a country has. These are the top 10 largest navies in the world in 2020:

10. Republic of China Navy

most powerful navy in the world

The Republic of China Navy has significantly improved its naval defence technology over the past two decades, primarily by buying ships from the US and some warships from other countries.
Now Taiwan can construct its vessels, too.
The Taiwanese Navy comprises nearly 38,000 operational personnel with over 100 active ships.
Taiwan Navy includes around 4 destroyers, 22 frigates, 31 missile combatant ships, 4 submarines, 12 patrol boats, 9 minesweepers, 10 auxiliary warships, 1 amphibious warship, and 28 fighter aircraft.
The ROC’s primary task is to protect its surrounding waters and territories against a possible blockade, attack, or invasion by the People’s Republic of China.
Relatively, the Chinese have a more powerful navy than the Taiwanese.
However, if both countries engage in maritime warfare, we can expect Taiwan to defend well in oceans.
This deployment protects the Taiwan Strait and adjacent seas by naval exercises and counter-strike wartime counter-invasion activities.
The Taiwanese navy competed for the 10th spot on this biggest navies list with the Indonesian navy.
As the Indonesian navy has twice as much active personnel and considerably more ships, but they limit most of their warships as seafarers.
Turkish navy is another large navy with a large coastal fleet and is primarily designed to operate only in the Mediterranean region.

9. Italian Navy

top 10 navy in the world

Italian Navy (officially Marina Militare Italiana) has the naval fleet with some 31,000 active personnel. 
Italian Navy operates warships of all types. They have one aircraft carrier from Cavour-Class, which is also their flagship.
It can handle V/STOL (Harriers and F-35Bs), helicopters, and aircraft systems. The Cavour can transport while holding troops and vehicles as well. 
A smaller aircraft carrier named Giuseppe Garibaldi is also in service.
Italian Navy was known as the Royal Marine before the Second World War, as the Republic of Italy replaced the Kingdom of Italy.
The fleet comprises 2 aircraft carriers, 6 diesel-powered submarines, 3 amphibious assault ships, 4 destroyers, 10 frigates, 5 corvettes, 10 coastal patrol boats, 10 offshore patrolling ships, 4 coastal patrol vessels, and 6 active anti-submarine frigates of Maestrale-class frigate.
The Marine Brigade of Italy (San Marco Marine Brigade) has a strength of 3,800 men, and the navy recruits the amphibious brigade on 3 amphibious transport vessels of the San Giorgio class. 
Navy built it on considering enhanced standards, which can bring more troops compared to the third ship of San Giusto class. 
Italy is reportedly developing a new amphibian attack boat from Trieste. By 2022, this would take effect to replace the light aircraft carrier, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

8. Republic of Korea Navy

world navy rankings

Since the 1990s, South Korea has significantly improved its naval strength to counter North Korea, having similar reasons like Taiwan.
But unlike the Taiwanese Navy, which imports many ships from western countries, the South Korean Navy operates every vessel made in their homeland.
Most of them are designed & manufactured by state-owned companies, while private firms like Hyundai and Daewoo make the rest of the armed vessels.
South Korea has about 70,000 active personnel, which is much more than the combined forces of our predecessors Italian Navy and the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Its naval fleet comprises 23 submarines, 1 amphibious assault ship, 6 landing vessels, 8 landing crafts, 12 destroyers, 14 frigates, 36 corvettes, 11 mine countermeasures ships, and 70 fighter aircraft.
South Korea needs a powerful military to protect itself from its neighbour’s sea-based attacks with a threat on the horizon.
Thankfully, since the Korean War, the South Korean economy has slowly been improving, allowing the government to use modern military equipment without worrying about economic constraints.
Based on what is happening regarding North Korea today, you can expect that the South Korean government will further boost the nation’s coastal defences.
Although South Korean Marines were established many decades ago, it has recently become a competent ocean force as the eighth strongest navy in the world.

7. Indian Navy

Indian navy strength

India is slowly but certainly improving the resources in its defence to become a global sea power to balance its Chinese neighbour in Indo Pacific.
INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier is the flagship of the Indian Navy (a modified  Kiev-class aircraft carrier). 
This carrier is moderate, in terms of the number of naval aviation carrying capacity.
Cochin Shipyard (State-owned company) built the first homemade aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which was commissioned in 2013 and is more capable than its Russian-made predecessor.
Both INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya have increased India’s power projection capacity dramatically through the Indian Ocean.
The third one, INS Vishal aircraft carrier (also known as the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 2) is planned and to be constructed by Cochin Shipyard for the Indian Navy.
INS Vishal will be India’s second aircraft carrier and first supercarrier. 
In total, 11 destroyers are operating at the Indian Navy, including three destroyers of the Kolkata class, 3 Delhi class, and 5 older destroyers in the Rajput class.
Indian Navy had crafted many of them in modern technology, including three Shivalik and six Talwar missile guided frigates. 
There is also a single frigate of the Godavari class, three older Brahmaputra classes, and 26 corvettes intended to protect coastal Waters.
Indian Navy will soon operate single ballistic missile class submarines, while the second class ship will be commissioned shortly. 
These submarines with nuclear power have been developed and incorporated with high secrecy. 
Along with diesel-powered submarines, the Indian Navy has two nuclear-powered submarines. 
The Indian Navy is modernizing to upgrade its outdated military technology and currently ranks 7th in the world.
Experts often regard this modernization as part of India’s defence plan to develop the security in coastal Waters and strengthen its influence in the Indian Ocean.

6. French Navy

largest navies

The French Navy (La Royale) was established in 1624 by The Kingdom of France and is one of the world’s oldest naval forces. 
French Navy served an important role in building the French colonial empire and helping allied forces win both world wars.
The fleet comprises of about 36,000 working naval officers, about 200 aircraft with a single carrier, 4 submarines, 6 attack submarines with combat ballistic missiles, 3 amphibious warfare ships, 4 air defence destroyers, 5 general purpose frigates, 6 surveillance frigates, 21 patrol vessels, and 18 mine counter-attack warships.
The list also comprises various supporting and assisting ships, including training ships, tugboats, and refuelling vessels.
France is also one of the nuclear forces in the world, so it is not surprising that there is such a considerable force on the coastline.
It is also one of the best navies in the world as defined by its role in intelligence preserving, public protection, crisis prevention, and prevent the threat of possible invasion.
The Marine Nationale comprises four branches.
• Force D’Action Navale
• Forces Sous-marines
• Aeronavale
• Fusiliers marine.
The Naval Force operates many combat ships, including nuclear carriers, nuclear submarines, and frigates.
Among them is French Navy flagship Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, which is a Unique class aircraft carrier
New frigates will be commissioned soon to replace destroyers class Cassard and class Georges Leygues with frigates of class Aquitaine. 

5. Royal Navy

British Royal Navy

British Empire was the biggest empire in the world that controlled almost all significant oceans, seas, and territorial waters from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century.
Similarly, the Royal Navy was once the world’s Largest Navy with a powerful influence still to this day.
It had an unrivalled influence and played a major role in the development of the British Empire. 
The United States Navy only surpassed it when the Second World War was over. 
Speaking about its current capabilities,
Two aircraft carriers of the Queen Elizabeth class are operating with an initial capability with HMS Queen Elizabeth as the fleet’s lead ship.
British naval aircraft carriers are smaller than American carriers but slightly more prominent than Russian and Chinese ones.
British Navy owns six anti-air fighting destroyers, and these vessels patrol vast areas to provide the fleet with air defence. 
In contrast to the Daring class destroyers, 13 duke frigates are mostly used for anti-submarine warfares.
There is a well-respected Royal Marine Commando Brigade of 7,700 personnel in the Royal Navy. 
The Royal Marines are the European Union’s most potent naval infantry force (second in the world after US marines corps). 
Additionally, there are two landing ships in class Albion and three logistic landing platform vessels in the Bay class.
Three nuclear-powered submarines are operating in the Astute class. Three nuclear-powered attacking Trafalgar-class active warships that will slowly retire in the coming years.
British also maintain four Vanguard ballistic missile submarines and Tomahawk cruise missiles for all subs. 
Each of these ships can carry a maximum of 192 nuclear warheads, and this power is enough to wipe out entire countries at once.
The fleet contains one aircraft carrier, three ballistic missile submarines, six nuclear power submarines, three amphibious vessels, six destroyers, 13 frigates, three offshore patrols ships, 13 minehunters, 18 fast patrol boats.
The Royal Navy also uses an HMS Bristol destroyer type 82 and an HMS Victory ship of the line. 
The latter is noteworthy as the oldest naval vessel ever afloat and serves as the first sea lord’s flagship.

4. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

strongest navy

Japanese Navy was officially established a few years after the Second World War after the Imperial Japanese Navy was dissolved.
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is the maritime warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces consisting of 50,800 personnel, 150 ships, and almost 346 aircraft.
The Japan Self-Defense Maritime Force comprises 7 warships, 40 destroyers, 6 frigates, 4 air defence destroyers, 3 landing ships, two landing crafts, 25 counter-attack vessels, six patrol ships, and eight training boats.
Japan recently modernized its marine facilities, just like South Korea, to defend itself from the North Korean, Chinese, and Russian threat.
Nonetheless, the Japanese government finds nuclear weapons to a dissuasive for North Korea.
The Japan Sea Forces are a Japanese self-defence military unit, which is responsible for Japan’s coastal defences.
Their Naval expansion is legally limited to military doctrine, as a part of the Japanese constitution.
It operates state-of-the-art warships and submarines. In contrast, they keep the Japanese fleet ready and highly efficient.
Therefore, while Japanese navies lose their numbers and tonnage to the Chinese fleet, Japanese warships are more modern and equipped with the advanced arms.
The JMSDF has no nuclear-powered submarines but has around 20 submarines.
As far as Japan does not use nuclear warships, it has built up diesel submarines that have improved strength and offensive capabilities.
Yet Japan does not have any underwater ballistic missiles or strategic ballistic missiles.
Naval aircraft in Japan comprises about 70 Lockheed P-3C Orions and a dozen Kawasaki Navy P-1s.

3. Russian Navy

best navy in the world

Russian Federation has one of the best navies in the world, officially established in 1992 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 
It comprises about 148,000 active personnel and over 300 operational vessels and 300 boats, which almost triples the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces, active staff. 
Russia’s naval fleet includes one cargo carrier, one battlecruiser, three cruisers, 13 destroyers, eight frigates, 78 corvettes, 17 submerged SSNs, 22 submarines, 13 submarines for ballistic weapons, 7 submarines of cruise-missiles, 3 submarines for special purposed purposes.
The Russian Navy inherited the fleet from the Soviet Navy after the fall of the USSR.
The Soviet fleet has decreased substantially since the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War and the resulting funding problems. 
Cold War remnants are the bulk of its vessels. In the last two decades, because of its small funding, the Russian defence has faced problems maintaining its main troops. 
Also, three smaller missile Slava class cruisers offer great anti-ship, anti-aircraft (guided-missile destroyer), and antisubmarine warfare capabilities.
While Russia is better known for its strong ground forces (military), their Navy was not as powerful as its western counterparts.
But the time is changed as the modern Russian Navy is now an indication that Russia is well prepared for sea skirmishes, making it a formidable force. 
Still, the Russian Navy falls behind the Chinese Navy (on paper) in overall warship numbers and tonnage.
Russia, however, has several proven ballistic missile submarines, which have been extremely deadly.
It still has the most powerful submarine in the world, the Typhoon-class submarine.

2. People's Liberation Army Navy

biggest navies in the world

China’s navy has rapid growth in its offensive arsenal by building new warships and submarines. 
The Chinese Army is officially called the People’s Liberation Army, has the strength of about 255,000 active personnel. 
Today in 2020, in terms of tonnage, it ranks as second-largest fleet after the US Navy and is on the way to become the most powerful navy in the world.
Chinese navy owns a single Liaoning aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in 2018 and is used primarily as a training ship. 
A similar carrier is scheduled to start operations around the end of 2020. But these newer warships are not as potent as their western or Russian counterparts.
On the other hand, the construction of new advanced warships is growing rapidly. 
It is expected that about 5 to 6 guidance missile cruisers of Type 055 destroyer are about to be completed by this year.
People’s Liberation Army Navy quickly arose as one of the world’s powerful maritime forces.

1. United States Navy

United States Navy is the strongest navy in the world

United States Navy is the largest navy in the world in 2020. 
The US shifted its naval functionalities from a possible direct war with the Soviet Union to regional conflicts in the early 1990s following the Cold War. 
For lower funding and lack of adequate threat currently, but mainly to the cost of smaller ships, US fleets continue to decline instead of major surface combatant soldiers and the most deadly submarines. 
In the early 20th century, the US took over the British empire in terms of naval strength.
Big thanks to one of our best presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, who employed Big Stick ideology.
The US Navy operates 11 large aircraft carriers with 5th generation technology fighter jets.
There are currently ten carriers in the Nimitz class and 1 Ford class in the US navy. They can operate fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and are nuclear powered.
And each carrier can carry 70 to 80 attack fighter jets or fast planes for reconnaissance.
America Class Amphibious Assault Ships and Wasp Class Amphibious Assault Ships are some of the best warships in the world.
Each of these warships carries approximately 1700-2000 Marines and blinded vehicles and delivers tilt rotors, helicopters, and hovercraft to shore. 
US Navy owns, USS Zumwalt, the largest and most powerful navy ship in the world ever built.
Before joining the Pacific Fleet, this 610-foot long 15,000-ton behemoth started sea trials in 2015.
Despite being the most massive destroyer, it has stealth technology, having a radar cross-section, just like small boats.
You might wonder how many ships are in the US navy?
According to the Naval Vessel Register and published reports, the United States Navy has over 490 ships in both active and reserve operations. Additionally, with approximately 90 others in planning and ordering phases or in construction.
Nuclear powered attack submarines patrol waters near the United States or far away from the seas, making effective anti-submarine efforts useless.
Nearly 3,700 planes serve the US Navy. Most of these are multi-role fighters of the F/A-18 family and other aircraft associated with them, based on carrier aircraft.
(Fun Fact- Technically, the US Navy is the second most powerful air-force in the world after the US Airforce, if we can consider the number of total fighter planes and attack helicopters commissioned in the US Navy). 
In the foreseeable future, it will probably remain at the top, based on how much the US government spends on military equipment.

Above is the list of the top 10 navies in the world​. 
In this article, the ranking is based on the sheer offensive scale, navy news and number of ships.
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14 thoughts on “Top 10 Largest Navies in the World”

  1. ROBERT J CHUBINSKY

    British aircraft carriers are not much larger than US Aircraft carriers, they are 25,000 tons lighter than American carriers like Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier (biggest aircraft carrier in the world) and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier (which makes HMS Queen Elizabeth much smaller).
    But yes, they are slightly larger than US Amphibious carriers.

    1. Thank you for valuable information, Robert. I too love Nimitz and the Giant Gerald R. Ford class carriers.
      Technically there is no comparison between HMS Queen Elizabeth (65,000 tonnes displacement) and these Sea monsters (100,000 tonnes+ displacement).

  2. Both in terms of arm power and global influence US Navy is much more powerful than rest of the navies combined.
    In amid of growing tensions with China and other dictatorial regime, US Navy deployed 3 aircraft carriers in Pacific to counter Chinese aggression.
    Being an american, I really feel proud of our navy keeps check on protecting democracy and free world for global peace.
    God bless America

    1. LOL thats true.
      It was when top officials of Soviet Russia loved to drink Pepsi and chill out.
      But due to some forex glitch rule back then, Soviet ruble couldn’t be exchanged.
      Instead, the USSR government paid Pepsi some old Naval Ships of equivalent value.
      Pepsi then sold the fleet to a Swedish company for scrap recycling.

  3. The Chinese Navy was created to defend the territorial seawaters of China.
    Teddy Roosevelt designed the US Navy to promote our American interests, globally.
    But these days the Chinese military has moved towards an offensive approach towards its oceanic neighbors in the South China sea.
    You may not believe it when listening to western media, but the Chinese only want to secure their trade routes, not military dominance.
    But one thing is for sure, Chinese will go to any extent to secure their trade routes in Indo-Pacific.

  4. For many years the United States Navy has far exceeded the Royal Navy.
    Probably in 1942–1943, the last time it was comparable was when the Royal Navy finally came out of 1942 and the US was about to implement its massive Building Program to the full.
    Still, its carrier aircraft’s superiority in quantity and quality had been an advantage for the US Navy.
    British Navy has been substantially reduced from its previous size mainly because the British Empire does not exist as it used to be and, of course, the cost reductions.
    If we consider historically, pre-WW2 Britishers used to have the strongest navy in the world ever.

  5. Once I reported to my duty squadron, as it was my first time in a carrier, and the ship was in operation.
    A carrier ‘s life takes place 24 hours a day.
    The flight operations typically take place between early morning and late evening while the night is heavily spent on maintenance.
    This does not mean that there are not so many aircraft movements, but maintenance is also not conducted during the day, but it is easier to do at night.
    In short, an Aircraft carrier is a completely different kind of beast compared to other defense fleets.

  6. We should not compare a country’s naval strength with just the number of aircraft carriers.
    Aircraft carriers can easily be destroyed by hypersonic weapons could make risks outweigh firepower.

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