Devising a methodology that will successfully create 2017 rankings for the 11 strongest navies in the world is no simple task. Going simply by the numbers, the results can be seriously flawed, like we can see here in Global Firepower’s ranking. By using a ship count as the ultimate metric, they have created a list with North Korean Navy at the top spot. The United States Navy came in third and apparently, Egypt has a stronger navy than India. Japan ranks 18th, with such naval powers like Finland, Bolivia and Myanmar all ranked better. You don’t need an Annapolis degree to see just how wrong that is.
In order to avoid such mistake, we created a genuine Insider Monkey ranking system. Instead of going by sheer numbers, we focused on the ship classes. Each navy on the list was awarded points for the following classes: aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, cruisers and destroyers, frigates, nuclear and non-nuclear submarines.
Aircraft carriers are currently the most powerful ships in the world today. US Navy’s 10 Nimitz class supercarriers, displacing 100,000 tons, are the largest combat ships ever built. Other nations operate much smaller carriers and the only one that comes even close is the Royal Navy’s Queen Elisabeth class, with a displacement of 70,600 tons.
The class that gave us the most headache is amphibious assault ship. These vessels are designed to provide support for invasions and are crucial to power projections capabilities of any navy. The trouble is that they come in all shapes and sizes and classifying them is very difficult. At the end, we decided to take into account only ships that feature a full-length landing deck, regardless of the type of aircraft it carries, and capable of over-the-horizon assault. Those are USN’s Wasp and America classes, French Navy’s Mistral class, Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean, Italian Navy’s San Giorgio-class, Republic of Korea Navy’s Dokdo class, and Royal Australian Navy’s Canberra class. Sometimes there’s an overlap between these ships and aircraft carriers, which can lead to some confusion, like in the case of the Spanish Navy’s Juan Carlos I, which we classified as an aircraft carrier, due to its dual-purpose mission capabilities.
Cruisers are a somewhat special category since there’s only a handful of navies that operate them, unlike destroyers, which are quite numerous. These are the workhorses of modern navies, designed to operate both independently and as part of a larger task force. Frigates are the smallest surface combatants of our list and also usually the smallest ocean-going vessels in any navy, but are vital for a number of tasks, like anti-submarine warfare and providing anti-air cover for their bigger brethren.
The final two categories are submarines, conventional and nuclear-powered ones. They come in two flavors, attack submarines, designed to attack other vessels and ballistic missile submarines, AKA boomers, with a payload of conventional and nuclear missiles. These are the pinnacle of naval might, carrying enough firepower to obliterate a small country.
As our starting source, we used Global Security’s database and then added ships that are planned to be commissioned in 2017. Some discrepancies may occur, due to various definitions of what an active ship is. Some navies count it as “active” as soon as it is commissioned, while others prefer to list only ships that are on active duty. 11 strongest navies in the world in 2017 rankings are also some of the Biggest Navies in the World, based on the total tonnage of their ships.