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navy, originally, all ships of a nation, whether for war or commerce; the term navy now designates only such vessels as are built and maintained specifically for war. There have been three major developments in naval vessels. From ancient times to the late 16th cent., navies consisted mostly of galleys; from the late 16th to the late 19th cent., they consisted mostly of side-gunned sailing vessels; and from 1865 until recently, they consisted of steam warships. Currently, diesel-powered ships dominate the world's navies, although many ships are nuclear-powered.

Navies began in the Mediterranean, with its access to three continents and favorable climatic conditions. Although the first recorded naval battle was c.1200 B.C. between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples, ships were probably used to transport and supply armies much earlier. Ancient warships usually relied on ramming, although sometimes catapults were used to fire missiles or incendiaries, and their crews fought as infantry. Galleys dominated the Mediterranean at least through the battle of Lepanto (1571) between the Christians and Muslims. In China, junks (high-pooped ships with battened sails) were used as fighting platforms for sea battles and for invasion fleets, such as the Mongol attempt to take Japan in 1281. In northern Europe the Norse perfected oared Viking ships with square sails and strong keels that were used to transport raiders or for boarding at sea, but they could not ram or carry as many fighters as a galley. They were organized into small but effective fleets. It was to meet their attacks that Alfred the Great, in the 9th cent., organized a royal fleet and became the first to realize that a navy was essential to England's security.

The reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth saw further naval developments. Between the 13th and 16th cent. the commercial trading vessels of Northern Europe evolved into effective warships, with rudders, keels, and complex sails. They soon became dominant around the world because of their increased maneuverability, their load-carrying capacity, and their suitability for carrying cannon. The Spanish and Portuguese navies dominated at different times until the destruction of the Spanish Armada (1588). From then on the British navy was the strongest in the world. Although challenged often, first by the Dutch and then the French, it ruled the seas for 300 years. British naval power rested not so much on numbers or superior ship construction, but on its professional seamen and officers. While Britain remained dominant, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States developed strong navies.

In the late 19th cent., the emergence of Japan and Germany as major naval powers encouraged the United States to establish a strong navy. In 1898, the United States destroyed the Spanish fleet in the Spanish-American War and emerged as the second strongest sea power in the world. At this time, such modern naval weapons as the torpedo, the rifled naval gun, and the submarine were developed. World War I was partially a contest between the naval strengths of Britain and Germany, with the submarine the crucial factor. Germany lost its navy at the end of the war.

After World War I naval tactics were revolutionized by the development of the airplane. Previously, the decisive naval weapons had been the heavily gunned cruisers and battleships. In World War II, it became the aircraft carrier, as proved when U.S. carrier-based aircraft dominated the Pacific and did much to cripple German submarine strength in the Atlantic. At the end of World War II, Germany, Italy, and Japan were stripped of their navies, Britain was economically weakened, and the United States emerged with the strongest navy in the world. By the early 1970s the USSR (now Russia) had the second most powerful navy; it was weakened, however, by the collapse of the USSR (1991) and Russia's subsequent economic difficulties. The development of nuclear-powered vessels, especially the submarine, together with nuclear weaponry, has altered the role of the navy in a nation's strategy and tactics.


See A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890); B. Brodie Naval Strategy (1942); H. T. Lenton, Warships of the British and Commonwealth Navies (1966); L. W. Martin, The Sea in Modern Strategy (1967); F. Pratt and H. E. Howe, Compact History of the United States Navy (rev. ed. 1967); P. Padfield, Guns at Sea (1973); C. Reynolds, Command of the Sea (1974); J. Guilmartin, Galleys and Gunpowder (1975); N. A. M. Rodgers, The Wooden World (1986); R. H. Spector, At War at Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat in the Twentieth Century (2001); I. W. Toll, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy (2006).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(called naval forces in some countries), an armed service designated to carry out strategic and operational missions in theaters of naval operations (on oceans and seas). The navy performs its missions independently as well as jointly with other armed services. The combat capabilities of the modern navy enable it to destroy important enemy objectives on land, to destroy enemy naval forces at sea and on bases, to support ground forces in theaters of ground operations, to disembark amphibious landing forces and repulse enemy amphibious landing forces, to disrupt enemy naval communications, and to defend its own communications system. The navy performs its missions by the conduct of naval operations.

The chief characteristic of the navy as an armed service is the great striking power of its major combat arms, high level of maneuverability of ships and aircraft groupings, the wide geographical range of its operations, the ability to deploy covertly its submarines in areas of military action and to deliver a sudden powerful attack on the enemy, and the constant high level of combat readiness of all its units.

The Soviet Navy is composed of the following combat arms: the submarine forces, naval air force, surface force, coast missile-launching artillery troops, and naval infantry. The chief combat arms are the submarines and naval aviation. The navy also includes auxiliary vessels, various ser-vices, and special-purpose units. Submarines are divided into missile-launching and torpedo-launching and into nuclear and diesel submarines; they are armed with strategic missiles that can be launched from under water and with homing torpedoes with nuclear or conventional charges. Submarines can destroy enemy ground objects at great ranges, striking groupings of the enemy fleet, including missile-launching nuclear submarines and ships of the carrier striking units, as well as transports and screening escort ships. Naval aviation includes naval missile-launching, antisubmarine, reconnaissance, and special-purpose aviation. Its main missions are the destruction of enemy submarines, surface ships, and transports. Naval missile-launching aviation is armed with strategic high-speed aircraft carrying a variety of missiles. Antisubmarine aviation is composed of airplanes and helicopters equipped with means for searching and destroying submarines. Surface ships are for searching and destroying submarines, fighting against other surface ships, disem-barking amphibious forces on enemy shores, detecting and disarming mines, and fulfilling other tasks. Surface warships and cutters are divided into several classes, depending on their mission, including missile-launching, antisubmarine, torpedo artillery, antimine, and landing ships. Missile-launching ships (cutters) are armed with guided missiles and can destroy enemy surface ships and transports at sea. The mission of antisubmarine ships is to search, pursue, and destroy enemy submarines in coastal areas and on the high seas. They are armed with antisubmarine helicopters, homing missiles, torpedoes, and depth bombs. Torpedo artillery ships (cruisers, destroyers, etc.) are used mainly to protect ships and vessels on sea lines of communications and amphibious detachments crossing the sea, for fire support of amphibious forces during a landing, and for the performance of other tasks. The mission of antimine ships is to detect and destroy naval mines laid by the enemy in the area of navigation of friendly submarines, surface ships, and transports. They are equipped with radioelectronic facilities that can detect ground and anchored mines and with various sweeps for clearing mines. Landing ships are used to transport across the sea and to disembark on enemy shores and islands sub-units and units of naval infantry and of ground forces acting as an amphibious landing force. The mission of the coast missile-launching artillery troops is to protect the shores of the country and important objectives of the fleet (front) on the shore from strikes by the enemy fleet from the sea. The naval infantry is used for action as part of amphibious landing forces jointly with ground forces and also independently; it has special armament and a variety of floating combat materiel. The main mission of the auxiliary vessels is to provide support for the basing and combat activity of submarines and surface ships.

The Soviet Navy is composed of fleets (the Red Banner Arctic Ocean, Pacific, Black Sea, and Twice Red Banner Baltic fleets), the Red Banner Caspian Flotilla, naval aviation, naval infantry, and coast artillery. The navy is headed by the commander in chief, who is also deputy minister of defense of the USSR. The Naval Staff Headquarters and the Main Naval Directorate are subordinate to him. The post of commander in chief of the navy (or a post equivalent to it) has been held by V. M. Al’tfater, October 1918-April 1919; E. A. Berens, May 1919-February 1920; A. V. Nemitts, February 1920-December 1921; E. S. Pantserzhanskii, December 1921-December 1924; V. I. Zof, December 1924-August 1926; R. A. Muklevich, August 1926-July 1931; V. M. Orlov, July 1931-July 1937; M. V. Viktorov, August 1937-January 1938; P. A. Smirnov, January-August 1938; M. P. Frinovskii, September 1938-March 1939; N. G. Kuznetsov, April 1939-January 1947; I. S. lumashev, January 1947-July 1951; N. G. Kuznetsov, July 1951-January 1956; S. G. Gorshkov, since January 1956.

The navies of the socialist countries (the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, the Polish People’s Republic, the Socialist Republic of Rumania, and other countries) are composed of surface ships with various missions, submarines, naval aviation, and naval infantry units.

The naval forces of the USA, Great Britain, and France include attack forces (nuclear-powered missile submarines and attack aircraft carriers), a naval air force, the marines (naval infantry), and antisubmarine, escort, and amphibious forces. Nuclear-powered missile submarines are armed with 16 Polaris and Poseidon missiles and are designed to destroy enemy ground objects at a range of up to 4,600 km. Attack aircraft carriers are considered as the main resource of the navy in the fight against the enemy at sea in local and limited wars and as a reserve of strategic forces in a nuclear war. The antisubmarine forces are designed to fight against submarines and include antisubmarine aircraft carriers that carry antisubmarine airplanes and helicopters, cruisers, frigates, destroyers, and nuclear and deisel antisubmarine submarines that are armed with torpedoes and rocket torpedoes. Ships with antiaircraft rocket armament provide antiaircraft defense to large carrier-based attack units, carrier-based antisubmarine groups, and large units of amphibious forces crossing the sea, as well as protection for convoys. The amphibious forces are used for landing troops and consist of landing helicopter carriers, landing ships, and vessels with various purposes. The naval air force includes carrier-based aviation and large units of base aviation. Its chief mission is to fight against enemy naval forces, to deliver strikes at ground objectives, and to lend support to amphibious and ground forces from the sea. The naval infantry is designed for action in independent amphibious landing operations of the navy and in operations conducted jointly with the air force and the ground forces, where it is used as a first assault echelon.

Organizationally the US Navy consists of two strategic fleets, the Atlantic and the Pacific fleets, from which operational fleets (special-mission commands) are formed for fulfilling operational and strategic missions in various regions of the world. The general leadership of the US Navy is exercised by the secretary of the navy, who is subordinate to the secretary of defense. The body that provides operational direction of the US Navy is the Naval Staff. In Great Britain the function of the command of the naval forces is exercised by the chief of the naval staff, the first sea lord. The naval forces of France are headed by the state secretary of the navy; operational leadership is exercised by the naval staff, the chief of which in peacetime is the deputy state secretary of the navy and in wartime, the commander in chief of the navy.

The naval forces of Italy, the Federal Republic of Ger-many, Canada, Turkey, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, and other member countries of NATO, as well as Sweden, the Commonwealth of Australia, Argentina, Brazil, the United Arab Republic of Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, Japan, and some other countries have diesel submarines, surface warships including (in some countries) ships armed with missiles, naval aviation, naval infantry, and auxiliary vessels.

The history of the origin and development of navies goes back to remote antiquity. Navigation and the navy originated in ancient China, Egypt, Phoenicia, and other slaveholding states. At first they built commercial vessels and later war-ships (rowing ships), which developed most in ancient Greece and Rome. In the Greek Navy of the fifth century B.C. the basic class of warship was the trireme. The ships most frequently used in the Roman Navy of the third to second century B.C. were the trireme and the quinquereme (a large ship with five rows of oars). In the first century B.C. another type of ship in addition to the above ships came into frequent use in Rome, the Liburnian galley, a small, more maneuverable ship with one row of oars. The chief tactics used were the battering ram attack (a thrust with the prow of the ship against the enemy ship) and throwing machines—ballistas and catapults—that were installed at the prow of the ship and launched stones and incendiary projectiles. The fleet was used mainly to destroy the enemy fleet at sea. The basic naval tactic was a battle with the use of throwing weapons, followed by boarding or ramming.

In the seventh century the Venetians developed from the Roman Liburnian galley an improved type of rowing ship, the galley, which gradually replaced the other types of rowing ships and which became the basic warship by the end of the early Middle Ages. In the tenth and 11th centuries several Mediterranean countries began building sailing ships, which were called nefs. Sailing ships, which formed the basis of the navies of England, France, Holland, Denmark, and Sweden, also appeared in the North Sea, when navigation was practiced by the Anglo-Saxons, Norsemen, and Danes. The ships of the Norsemen, which were called drakes (or dragons), reached a length of 30-40 m. Straight sails formed the main propellant, and oars placed in one row, with 16-32 oars on each side, were used as an auxiliary propellant. The transition from rowing to sailing ships was essentially completed by the middle of the 17th century. In some countries (for instance, in Russia and Sweden) rowing warships were used until the 19th century. The transition from rowing to sailing fleets was greatly influenced by the great geographic discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries. The development of the sailing fleet was greatly accelerated with the invention of gunpowder and the perfection of artillery, which gradually became the main weapon of the sailing ships. The tactics of the first sailing fleets of the 15th and 16th centuries still differed little from the modes of warfare of the rowing fleet.

In the 17th century permanent navies were created in Great Britain, France, Spain, and Holland. Dockyards were built and admiralties set up for shipbuilding and for the command of the fleet. The classification of ships was established and their missions defined for the first time on the basis of experience gained in the first Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54. Ships were divided into six classes depending on their water displacement, the number of guns, and the size of the crew. The ships of the first three classes, which had between 44 and 100 guns, were called ships of the line. They were the basic combat nucleus of the fleet and were designed for artillery battles; ships of the fourth and fifth classes were called frigates and were used for reconnaissance and for action on sea lines of communications; ships of the sixth class were used as messenger vessels. The combat organization of the sailing fleet took shape for the first time during the Anglo-Dutch War. The sailing fleet was from that time on divided into three squadrons, each of which was in turn divided into three divisions—the vanguard, the center, and the rear guard. The tactics of conducting naval battles with sailing fleets consisted in forming the ships in a wake column, occupying the windward position with respect to the enemy, coming close to him, and destroying his ships with artillery fire. When artillery could not bring about a decisive victory, fire ships were used, and sometimes the battle led to boarding followed by hand-to-hand combat.

In Russia the navy originated in the sixth and seventh centuries. However, no great development took place until the 18th century. The development of a regular navy commenced in 1696, when the construction of the Azov Fleet began on an order of Peter I. In the Northern War of 1700-21, Russia created in a relatively short time a strong navy, which played an important role in the victory over Sweden. Russia moved into the ranks of the first-class naval powers.

The rapid development of capitalism in the second half of the 18th century led to an accelerated development of navies. In the 18th century Great Britain became an enormous colonial empire, owing to the rapid development of its navy in the course of the struggle against Holland and Spain; France seized great overseas territories. The wars between Great Britain and France were conducted not only in the European theater but also on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In the 18th century the development of capitalist production and of military technology and science and numerous inventions and discoveries in metallurgy and shipbuilding led to greatly improved designs for the hulls of warships, the sails, and the artillery armament. The water displacement of the large ships increased from 1,000-2,000 tons to 3,000-4,000 tons. At the same time the number of guns on the ships of the line rose to 120-135. Bronze guns were replaced by cast-iron guns, the rate of fire of ship artillery increased to one round per three minutes, and the range of fire rose from 300 to 600 m. In North America, D. Bushnell built a submarine, which in 1777 tried to attack the English sailing ship the Eagle, but the attack failed because of the technological imperfections of the submarine.

Steam warships date from the early 19th century. The first experimental steamship, the Clermont (water displacement, 150 tons; engine, 24 horsepower; speed of the ship, up to 5 knots), was built by R. Fulton in America in 1807. The first armed steamship of the Russian fleet, the Izhora, was built in 1826. Steam frigates (water displacement, up to 1,400 tons; engine power, 250-300 horsepower; speed, 8-9 knots; armament, 20-28 low-caliber cannon or 16 high-caliber guns) were built in a number of countries in the 1830’s (including Russia in 1836). Steam frigates, along with sailing ships, were included in the composition of navies and were used for reconnaissance, as messenger vessels, and for towing sailing ships. The invention of the screw propeller in the first half of the 19th century led to the construction of ships of the line with steam engines. At the same time the fleets of some countries (France, Russia, and others) were armed with bombing cannon with a caliber of 68-80 Ibs. (200-220 mm), which fired explosive bombs and which, besides damaging the sides, caused great fires on ships. In the first half of the 19th century the Russian Navy introduced mine weaponry into its armament.

In the second half of the 19th century, as a result of the experience of the Crimean War of 1853-56, all countries began building steam ironclads with armor up to 610 mm thick. The calibers of smooth-bore ship artillery increased to 460 mm. The development of the navy was greatly influenced by the development of mine weaponry and by the appearance in the 1870’s of self-propelled mines, which were called torpedoes; this made it necessary to make the ships less vulnerable and sinkable by dividing the hull of the ship into compartments. The theoretical basis for the solution of this problem was provided by the work of the prominent Russian scientists S. O. Makarov and A. N. Krylov. New ships—iron-clads, with mighty artillery and strong armor—became the basic striking power of the fleet. At first, these ships had a wooden or iron hull protected by an armored belt up to 150 mm thick, running all along the side of the ship. The artillery of an ironclad numbered as many as 30 guns. The first Russian ship with iron armor, the Opyt, was built in 1861. Later, casemated and turreted ironclads and ironclads with barbettes were built. In the 1870’s the use of sails as auxiliary propellants of ironclads was discontinued and the construction of sparless (without sails) seagoing ironclads was begun. One of the first such ships was the Russian ironclad Petr Velikii, which was commissioned in 1877. The final phase in the development of the ironclad in Russia and in other great naval powers was the construction in the 1890’s of the squadron ironclad (water displacement, up to 12,000 tons; speed, 16-18 knots; main artillery, four 305-mm guns; medium-caliber artillery, most often six or more 152-mm guns; armored belt, 300-450 mm). These ships were very invulnerable and hard to sink. Cruisers were built for reconnaissance and for action on the lines of communications; the cruisers had less armament and armor than the squadron ironclads, but they were faster. The development of mine and torpedo weaponry led to the appearance in the second half of the 19th century of new classes of ships— minelayers and torpedo boats. Changes in the materiel and technical foundation of the navy led to fundamentally new tactics of naval warfare. The first major work in this field was a book by the Russian admiral G. I. Butakov, New Principles of Steamship Tactics (1863). Admiral S. O. Makarov made a great contribution toward the working out of the tactical principles for the use of mines and torpedoes.

Under the influence of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 ships of the line were recognized as the decisive force in naval warfare in many navies of the world; the improvement of the ships of the line developed in the direction of increasing the number of barrels of the main artillery, strengthening the armor, and increasing the speed of the ships. The first ship to satisfy these requirements was built in Great Britain in 1905-07 and was named the Dreadnought. From that point on, ships of the line of this type came to be called dreadnoughts, and their development put an end to the construction of squadron ironclads. The best ships of the line of the time were the Russian battleships of the Sevastopol’ type (1914), which were the first ships with four three-gun turrets with a total of 12 guns of a caliber of 305 mm. The accepted linear distribution of the main artillery on this ship was tactically more advantageous than the linear-rhomboid distribution on the Dreadnought. Many countries began building light cruisers for reconnaissance, for fights against enemy destroyers, and for action on lines of communications. The destroyers underwent great changes as a result of the in-creased role of torpedoes. The destroyer Novik, which was built in Russia in 1913, was considerably superior to foreign torpedo boats with respect to artillery, torpedo armament, invulnerability, and speed. The rapid development of mine weaponry made it necessary to build minelayers. The first minesweepers in the world were built in Russia in 1908-12. Navies of other countries converted shallow-draft commercial fishing vessels for sweeping mines. Great advances in the design of internal combustion engines, electric motors, storage batteries, and periscopes stimulated further development in the construction of submarines, which were used in most countries for fighting enemy surface ships in coastal waters and for reconnaissance. In the Russian Navy they were also used for the covert deployment of mine obstacles near enemy shores. The world’s first military seaplane was built in 1914-15 according to the plan of the Russian designer D. P. Grigorovich. The Black Sea Fleet was provided with air transports, each of which could carry up to seven seaplanes. The armament of ships underwent great changes; there were increases in the rate of fire of the big guns (up to two rounds per minute) and in the range of fire, the construction of anti-submarine weaponry began, and the radio came into use. There were no essential changes in the military doctrines of the seapowers; until the beginning of World War I, just as in the period of the sailing fleets, the theory was to gain mastery over the sea through an all-out battle with the main naval forces. In Russia much attention was devoted to the conduct of defensive battles at mine and artillery positions prepared in advance.

Taking part in World War I (1914-18) were hundreds of surface ships, submarines, and, in the last phase of the war, aircraft. The ships of the line were used on a greatly reduced scale owing to the greatly increased danger of mines, sub-marines, and other resources. Their development involved increasing the artillery of the main caliber and the thickness of the armor belt (up to 406 mm), the number and caliber of antiaircraft guns were increased, the speed reached 25 knots, and water displacement increased to 35,000 tons. The use of line cruisers, which had weak armor, was not justified, and their construction was discontinued. Light cruisers were used on a wide scale during the war; by the end of the war the water displacement increased to 8,000 tons and the speed to 30 or more knots. Destroyers were recognized as all-purpose ships and made up the bulk of the fleets of the belligerent states. Their water displacement was increased to 2,000 tons and the speed, to 38 knots. Minelayers and minesweepers were further developed. Special types of minesweepers appeared—fast squadron minesweepers, base minehunters, and cutter minesweepers. Submarines played an important role in combat action at sea; they became an independent combat arm of the navy that could successfully perform not only tactical but also operational missions. A classification of submarines was established, dividing them into big, medium, and small; transport submarines were built. The cruising range of navigation of the submarines was about 5,500 miles; the surface speed was about 18 knots and the underwater speed, 9-10 knots; the number of torpedo tubes increased to six; and they were armed with one or two guns of a caliber of between 20 and 152 mm. Submarines were used most effectively in actions over lines of communications; they sank about 6,000 ships in the course of the war. The serious threat of submarines made it necessary to adopt measures for protecting large surface ships returning to base, during sea crossings, and in combat. New classes of ships appeared during the war, including aircraft carriers, patrol vessels, and torpedo boats. The first aircraft carrier with a flight deck was made in Great Britain by converting the uncompleted cruiser Furious, so that it could carry more than four reconnaissance planes and six fighter planes. Aviation was used for the first time in naval combat action. It was used for reconnaissance, bombing strikes on ships and naval bases, and the adjustment of ship artillery fire. Aircraft were armed with torpedoes as well as bombs. The navy was becoming a command of heterogeneous combat arms—surface ships, submarines, and aviation, with the dominant position occupied by the surface forces.

In the period between the two world wars the development of navies in the capitalist states continued despite negotiations and agreements between the naval powers about some limitation of the naval arms race. In 1936 the ships of the line Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were launched by fascist Germany; this was a direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles and was done with the complicity of the Western powers. With a water displacement of 37,000 tons, these ships had up to nine 200-mm guns arranged in triple-gun towers, an armored belt 320-mm thick around the waterline, and a speed of 31 knots. In 1939, Germany launched two ships of the line of the Bismarck type (water displacement, 45,000 tons; eight 381-mm guns; thickness of armor, 330 mm; and speed, 30 knots). In 1936-38 six ships of the line of the Washington type were laid in the USA (water displacement, 35,000 tons; nine 406-mm guns; thickness of armor, 406 mm; and speed, 30 knots). Great Britain began at that time the construction of five ships of the line of the King George V type (water displacement, 35,000 tons; large-caliber artillery, ten 356-mm guns; thickness of armor, 406 mm). Further development of the ships of the line in the USA, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, and other capitalist countries involved the improvement of their tactical and technical data. Obsolete or uncompleted ships of the line, cruisers, and commercial vessels were converted into aircraft carriers. In 1937-38, Great Britain, Japan, and the USA began the lot production of aircraft carriers. The standard water displacement of the ships varied between 17,000 and 22,600 tons and the speed, between 30 and 34 knots. Such ships were the American Enterprise and Yorktown, the Japanese Soryo and Hiryo, and the British Ark Royal. By the beginning of World War II (1939-45) the British Navy had seven aircraft carriers, the US Navy five, the French Navy one, and the Japanese Navy six. There was intensive construction of cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats. The contruction of submarines slowed down. All navies had bomber, mine and torpedo, reconnaissance, and fighter aviation. There was considerable development of the artillery and torpedo weaponry of ships, new influence-activated mines and antisubmarine weaponry, and radar and sonar systems were created. The military doctrines of the capitalist powers underestimated the developing forces and means of naval warfare, such as aviation, submarines, and the new methods of combat action to which they gave rise.

Although the outcome of World War II was mainly decided on land and primarily on the Soviet-German front, the dimensions of the armed struggle at sea greatly increased in comparison with previous wars. The sea war involved the participation of more than 6,000 ships and vessels and about 14,000 aircraft. The whole world ocean became tactically the arena of the armed struggle of the navies. A total of 36 large naval operations were conducted during the war. The belligerent parties lost 2,017 ships of great and medium water displacement. In the course of the war the ships of the line lost their former importance, ceding their role as the main surface striking force of the navy to the aircraft carriers. Ships of the line and cruisers came to be used for supporting aircraft carriers. The use of carrier-based aviation made it possible to conduct naval combat under conditions in which opposing groupings of ships might be located several hundreds of miles apart from each other. At such distances destroyers could not use their torpedoes as they were originally designed; at the same time they assumed a considerable percentage of the missions for the protection of aircraft carriers, landing parties, escorts, and the basing system of fleets.

Submarines, which were used mainly to combat enemy navigation, played a prominent role in combat action. Fascist Germany alone built 1,175 submarines between 1939 and 1945. For the fight against them surface ships, aviation, submarines, and mine weaponry were employed. During the war there was great development of naval aviation, which became an independent combat arm of the navy. Carrier-based aviation played a special role in combat action; its use led to battles between carrier-based forces and made it possible to extend an aerial threat to enemy naval forces in practically all the regions of the world ocean. Groupings of surface forces covered by fighters of carrier-based aviation could now approach enemy shores. Joint actions of the naval forces and the ground forces were employed. The number of landing operations increased. During the war the allies disembarked more than 600 large landing parties, of which six were on a strategic scale. The largest of them was the Normandy landing operation of 1944, which involved the participation of 860 ships and more than 14,000 aircraft and which provided for the landing of three combined-arms forces of American and British troops. The use of radar became widespread. Navies used antiaircraft defense ships. Naval operations confirmed in practice the great importance of secrecy in the preparation of operations, of careful intelligence work, of the speed of maneuvers, and of gaining air supremacy in the region of the operation. World War II confirmed the conclusion that the aims of armed struggle on the sea must be achieved by navies composed of various combat arms acting in close coordination with each other.

In building up the naval forces in the postwar period the capitalist states—primarily the USA and Great Britain— directed their main efforts toward creating nuclear-powered missile submarines armed with ballistic missiles, as well as carrier-based aviation and attack aircraft carriers. Surface ships began to be equipped with antiaircraft and antisubmarine missiles of different classes and nuclear submarines with strategic medium-range missiles (2,800-5,000 km). Carrier-based attack aviation is charged with great missions in combat action at sea in case of an all-out nuclear war and in limited and local wars. The equipping of ships and aircraft of naval aviation with various radioelectronic devices has greatly increased. The fundamental renovation of naval aviation is under way. Much attention is being devoted to developing forces and means for combating submarines. In this connection, the role of antisubmarine helicopters and transport helicopters for airborne landing in the navies has greatly in-creased, and new classes and types of ships have been developed, such as landing helicopter carriers and antisubmarine helicopter carriers. The Federal Republic of Germany has greatly stepped up the development of the navy by building submarines, missile ships and cutters, antisub-marine ships, and landing vessels, as well as by purchasing airplanes and helicopters for the navy.

The Soviet Navy, which has inherited and is carrying on the best traditions of the Russian Navy, has been built up and has developed together with all the Soviet armed forces. The decree on the creation of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy was signed by V. I. Lenin on Jan. 29 (Feb. 11), 1918. On Feb. 22-27, 1918, Soviet sailors, upon Lenin’s directive, moved from Revel to Helsingfors the Soviet warships that, according to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Soviet Russia was obliged to move from the western to the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland or to disarm them at once. In March-April 1918 the ships crossed over to Kronstadt and Petrograd. This was the Ice Campaign, unprecedented in history, owing to which Soviet Russia was able to preserve the basic nucleus of the Baltic Fleet (236 ships and auxiliary vessels, including six ships of the line, five cruisers, 54 destroyers, 12 submarines, five minelayers, six minesweepers, and 11 patrol vessels).

During the Civil War and the military intervention of 1918-20 the Baltic Fleet defended the approaches to Petro-grad from the sea, repulsed attempts by the British Navy to break through to the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland to support the White Guards, supported Red Army units on the shore with artillery fire, and secured the rapid suppression of a White Guards’ mutiny in Krasnaia Gorka and Seraia Loshad’ forts (June 1919), which were key points in the defense of Petrograd from the sea. In view of the danger that ships of the Black Sea Fleet might be captured by the German occupation troops that had invaded the Ukraine, the ship of the line Svobodnaia Rossiia and nine destroyers were scuttled near Novorossiisk on June 18, 1918, upon V. I. Lenin’s order; some of the ships sailed to the Azov Sea and formed the nucleus of the Azov Military Flotilla, others were captured by the interventionists. During the Civil War more than 30 sea, lake, and river flotillas were created, mainly from ships of the Baltic Fleet. The largest of them—the Volga, Caspian, Dnieper, Severnaia Dvina, Onega, and Azov military flotillas—fought jointly with the Red Army against the river and lake forces of the enemy and disrupted his transports and crossings. Between 1918 and 1920 more than 7,600 mines were laid in seas, lakes, and rivers; 23 enemy warships and auxiliary vessels were blown up by them and sank. More than 75,000 sailors were sent to land fronts. Elements of the Soviet naval art originated during the Civil War.

In March 1921 the Tenth Congress of the RCP (Bolshevik) adopted a decision on the reactivation and strengthening of the navy. The ship crews were recruited primarily from among factory and plant workers. The Naval Section was set up within the Political Directorate of the Red Army to ad-minister Party and political work in the navy. The restoration of ships began. In 1922-23 the active ships of the Baltic Fleet included the ship of the line Petropavlovsk, the cruiser Aurora, the training vessel Okean, a detached division of eight destroyers, a detached squadron of nine submarines, a detachment of 20 minesweepers, and the Finnish-Ladoga Border Guards Detachment of 17 patrol vessels and other ships. Introduced into the Black Sea Fleet in 1923 was the cruiser Komintern (formerly Pamiat’ Merkuriia), the destroyers Nezamozhnik and Petrovskii, two submarines, and several other ships. At the same time that the ships of the navy were being restored, qualified command cadres were being trained. The school for naval command personnel was reorganized in 1922 into the Naval School (now the M. V. Frunze Higher Naval School). In the summer of 1922 the mechanics, shipbuilding, and electrical engineering divisions of this school were transformed into the Naval Engineering School (now the F. E. Dzerzhinskii Higher Naval Engineering School). In 1923 the Higher Naval Command Personnel Training School for Specialists was opened. The Naval Academy began training highly skilled cadres.

By 1928 there had been a considerable number of ships repaired, ships of the line were partially modernized, destroyers were rehabilitated and modernized, and naval bases were rehabilitated. In the period of the prewar five-year plans of 1929-40 the navy acquired hundreds of new first-rate ships. The Baltic and Black Sea fleets became stronger. Upon the decision of the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik) two new fleets were created—the Pacific Fleet in 1932 and the Northern Fleet in 1933. In 1938 the Communist Party adopted a program for the construction of a large sea and ocean fleet. The People’s Commissariat of the Navy was formed in 1937. New naval schools were formed in Sevastopol’, Baku, and Vladivostok. New combat regulations and manuals for the navy were worked out.

On the eve of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 the navy had about 1,000 warships of different classes, including three ships of the line, seven cruisers, 59 destroyer leaders and destroyers, 218 submarines, 269 torpedo boats, and more than 2,000 aircraft of naval aviation. The navy’s system of bases greatly improved. From the very first days of the war the navy reliably defended the sea lines of communication, secured the evacuation of the population and industrial enterprises, and supplied troops that were blockaded on land by the enemy. The Northern Fleet established direct contact with the naval forces of the allies (Great Britain and the USA) and provided security for intercommunication between northern ports of the USSR and allied ports. The White Sea Flotilla was created to protect navigation in the Arctic and, in particular, along the Northern Sea Route. Many coastal bases of operation and naval bases were held for a long time by the joint efforts of the ground forces and navy. The Northern Fleet (commanded by A. G. Golovko) fought jointly with the troops of the Fourteenth Army at the distant approaches to the Kola Bay and Murmansk. In 1942 it was charged with the defense of the Srednii and Rybachii peninsulas. The Baltic Fleet (commanded by V. F. Tributs) participated in the defense of Liepāja, Tallinn, the Moonzund Islands, the Hanko Peninsula, the Oranienbaiim base of operations, the islands of Vyborg Bay, and the northern shore of Lake Ladoga. The fleet played an important role in the heroic defense of Leningrad. The Black Sea Fleet (commanded by F. S. Oktiabr’skii; from April 1943, L. A. Vladimirskii; from March 1944, F.jS. Oktiabr’skii) conducted operations for the defense of Odessa, Sevastopol’, and Novorossiisk jointly with ground forces and participated in the defense of the Northern Caucasus. In order to create defense lines, river and lake flotillas were set up on deep rivers and lakes, including the Azov Flotilla, from which detachments of ships were assigned to conduct action on the Don and Kuban’ rivers; the Danube, Pina, Chudskoe, Ladoga, Onega, and Volga flotillas; and a detachment of ships on Lake Il’men’. The Ladoga Flotilla played a great role in protecting lines of communication across Lake Ladoga (the “life road”) to beleaguered Leningrad. The Dnieper River Military Flotilla was reactivated in 1943 and the Danube River Military Flotilla in 1944. The former (re-based in the Oder Basin) participated in the Berlin Operation. The Danube Flotilla fought in the river basin and participated in the liberation of Belgrade, Budapest, and Vienna. In the course of the war the navy disembarked more than 110 landing parties. The Pacific Fleet (commanded by I. S. lumashev) and the Red Banner Amur Flotilla (commanded by N. V. Antonov) participated in August-September 1945 in the rout of the Japanese Kwangtung Army and in the liberation of Korea, Manchuria, southern Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.

During the war the Soviet Army sank 1,245 warships and auxiliary vessels and more than 1,300 transport vessels of the enemy. For outstanding combat performance in the Great Patriotic War, orders and medals were awarded to more than 350,000 sailors, the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 513 persons, and the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred twice on seven persons.

In the postwar period the Soviet Navy was built up taking into account the combat experience gained. Prime emphasis was placed on the development of large surface ships. Diesel submarines were also constructed that can operate at great distances from base. Naval aviation was reinforced with jet airplanes, which replaced piston airplanes. New technical combat means and weaponry were elaborated at the same time. In the early 1950’s nuclear charges for missiles and naval torpedoes were created, missiles designed to destroy ground and aerial targets were successfully improved, the first nuclear power installations on ships were designed, and in 1953 the contruction of nuclear submarines began. All this enabled the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Soviet government to determine new directions for the development of the navy and to adopt a policy toward the construction of an essentially new oceangoing missile and nuclear navy. Ships began to be equipped with missile and nuclear weaponry and with the latest radioelectronic devices. Nuclear submarines for different purposes, missile ships, cutters, and antisubmarine ships that can successfully engage modern high-speed and deep-water submarines were created. Various classes of surface ships were created to perform special missions. Naval aviation received improved jet aircraft capable of delivering strategic missiles at great distances. Aviation’s effective strength for combat was increased with antisubmarine airplanes and helicopters. Rifled coast artillery gradually began to be replaced with rocket installations capable of accurately hitting naval targets at the distant approaches to the shore. Along with the technological development of the navy the forms and methods of its operational and strategic employment are being improved.


Veselago, F. F. Kratkaia istoriia russkogo flota (s nachala razvitiia moreplavaniia do 1825 goda), 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Shershov, A. P. Istoriia voennogo korablestroeniia s drevneishikh vremen i do nashikh dnei. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Istoriia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskogo Soiuza: 1941-45, vols. 1-6. Moscow, 1963-65.
Boevoi put’ Sovetskogo Voenno-Mosrskogo flota [2nd ed.]. Moscow, 1967.
Iakovlev, V. D. Sovetskii Voenno-Morskoi flot, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1969.
V’iunenko, N. P., and R. H. Mordvinov. Voennye flotilii v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine. Moscow, 1957.
Organizatsiia i vooruzhenie armii i flotov kapitalisticheskikh gosudarstv, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Nimitz, C., and E. Potter. Voina na more (1939-45). Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Roscoe, T. Boevye deistviia podvodnykh lodok SShA vo vtoroi mirovoi voine. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from English.)
Matloff, M. Ot Kasablanki do “Overlorda.” Moscow, 1964. (Translated from English.)
Bogdanov, V. M. Voenno-Morskoi flot Sovetskoi strany: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1947.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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