US Navy can’t match China’s fleet if WW3 breaks out over Taiwan, expert claims

The Chinese navy’s growing strength means that America would be overwhelmed in a conflict between the two superpowers, according to a leading expert.

Sam Tangredi, a specialist in Future Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College, says it’s simply a matter of numbers. China already has the world’s largest navy, he points out, and it’s still growing.

Historically, Tangredi says, no matter how advanced one side might be in a naval battle, the largest force has always won.

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The war in Ukraine has revealed that the Russian military is significantly weaker than previously thought, but Pentagon leaders have identified China as the “pacing threat” to the US armed forces.

With the years-long standoff over Taiwan threatening to erupt into conflict at any moment, the US Navy could soon be called to fight the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The US fleet currently has less than 300 ships, and the Pentagon has plans to increase its strength to 350 by 2045.

But China already has at least 340 vessels, with a rapid expansion plan expected to take that figure to around 400 within the next two years.

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Tangredi says that at present US defence policy relies on having more sophisticated weaponry than any potential opponents, but even the most advanced weapons may not be enough in the face of China’s overwhelming numbers.

“US leaders must ask themselves to what extent they are willing to bet on technological — without numerical — superiority in that fight,” he wrote in the January issue of the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine.

“I do not say that a smaller, technologically superior fleet could never defeat a much larger fleet,” he added, “I only say that — with the possible the exception of three cases in the past 1,200 years — none has.”

He added: “Most analysts doubt that the US defence industry — which has consolidated and shrunk since the end of the Cold War — could expand quickly enough to meet wartime demand.”

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Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London, told CNN that Tangredi’s analysis was sound, and that a larger fleet would always have the advantage.

“A larger fleet tend to be more competitive, in training personnel development, and operational capacity,” he said, adding that the ability to quickly replace vessels that were damaged or sunk could be a deciding factor.

“In naval war," he warned, "attrition is a real thing, so the ability to replace is vital”.

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China’s President Xi Jinping said in October last year that his country’s military should “concentrate all energy on fighting a war, direct all its work toward warfare, and speed up in enhancing the ability to win a war”.

A few weeks before Xi’s speech, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, warned that China is planning a “much faster timeline” for its invasion of Taiwan.

In the wake of a controversial military exercise close to Taiwanese territory earlier this month, a statement from the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said Beijing’s aim was “to practice land-strikes and sea assaults” and “resolutely counter the provocative actions of external forces and Taiwan independence separatist forces”.


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