The US Navy’s 19 Ship and Submarine Classes

Amendments passed to the FY 2023 defense spending bill meant that the U.S. Navy would retire four Freedom-class littoral combat ships. The original bill proposed retiring nine, a response to the ship’s many mechanical problems, and rapid obsolescence in light of the rise of China and a more aggressive Russia, and as the U.S. moves away from prioritizing combatting terrorism. One might assume that a ship class on the verge of mass retirement would be an outdated relic, possibly from the Cold War, but in fact the littoral combat ships are among the newest ships in the fleet.

The recently-passed FY 2023 Department of Defense budget made way for the very early retirement of four Freedom-class littoral combat ships. These ships, which were among the newest vessels in the Navy, are being phased out due to mechanical issues and the rapidly changing nature of America’s military priorities, from smaller engagements with insurgent groups to escalating tensions with global superpowers Russia and China. 

Tensions between the U.S. and China escalated this summer after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, despite warnings from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. The island has been self-governed since 1945.  

Even before Pelosi’s controversial visit, relations between the world’s two largest trading partners have been choppy for years due to China’s contentious assertions of maritime territories as well as long-simmering differences on a range of other issues, including human rights and economic and trade policies.  

Both countries routinely engage in war games, exercises, and other displays of military power, such as the war games the U.S. Navy played in the South China Sea in January. Any military confrontation between China and the United States would most certainly play out mostly in the air and at sea. (Here is every plane in the Chinese air force.)  

The U.S. is currently the world’s indisputable top naval power with an estimated 243 U.S. Navy surface and underwater boats capable of anything from deploying Marines on any shore using dock landing boats like the San Antonio-class transport dock to launching nuclear attacks with Trident II missiles launched from Ohio-class submarines known as “boomers.”

To identify the 19 classes of vessels that make up the ships and submarines of the U.S. Navy, 24/7 Wall St. referenced military data site World Directory of Modern Military Warships’ directory of all active ships in the U.S. The ship and submarine classes are ranked in order of the number of vessels currently in active use by the navy, according to WDMMW. Any ships on order were excluded. 

The most common U.S. Navy boat is the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, with 68 such vessels. Meanwhile, 28 Los Angeles-class attack submarines prowl beneath the waves in potential search-and-destroy missions.

The newest addition to the fleet is the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the first of 10 that are being built as successors to the 10 Nimitz-class carriers sailing the world’s seas and oceans. (This is the world’s largest warship.)

Here are the warships and submarines of the U.S. Navy.

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