The United States Navy is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for naval operations. The U.S. Navy consists of more than 300 ships and over 4,000 operational aircraft. It has over half a million personnel on active or ready reserve duty. The Navy is part of the United States Department of Defense.

The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on October 13, 1775 by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the American Revolutionary War, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.

After the American War for Independence, Congress sold the surviving ships of the Continental Navy and released the seamen and officers. The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a navy." Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates on March 27, 1794 and in 1797 the first three frigates, USS United States, USS Constellation and USS Constitution went into service.

The War Department administered naval affairs from that year until Congress established the Department of the Navy on April 30, 1798.

US Navy guided-missile destroyer
(USS Lassen)

Table of contents
1 History of the U.S. Navy
2 Development of modern U.S. Navy power
3 Naval Jack
4 Naval culture
5 Naval jargon
6 Fleets
7 Submarine warfare and nuclear deterrence
8 Ships of the U.S. Navy
9 Weapons systems
10 Naval aircraft
11 Notable members of the U.S. Navy
12 Related articles
13 Naval bases
14 External links

History of the U.S. Navy

See History of the United States Navy.

Development of modern U.S. Navy power

to be written

Naval Jack

US Naval Jack
The naval jack of the United States is a blue field with 50 white stars, identical to the canton of the ensign, both in appearance and size. A jack of similar design was first used in
1794, though with 13 stars arranged in three rows of 4-5-4.

The jack is flown from the bow of the ship and the ensign from the stern when the ship is moored or anchored. When underway, the ensign is flown from the main mast.

On 31 May 2002, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England directed all US naval ships to fly the First Naval Jack for the duration of the War on Terrorism, beginning September 11 2002.

First US Naval Jack

Naval culture

Navy sailors are trained in the core values of Honor, Courage, Commitment. Sailors cope with boredom on long cruises of six months to a year, and cherish their time in their home ports, as well as vacations at ports abroad.

Naval jargon

A distinct dialect of English has developed amongst sailors over the course of the last four centuries. Naval jargon is spoken by American sailors as a normal part of their daily speech.
There are three distinct components of Naval jargon:

US Navy Los Angeles-class
submarine (USS San Juan)

Common Naval Jargon

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on November 3rd 2003. Approximately fifty aircraft can be counted on deck.


  • 2nd Fleet - Atlantic
  • 3rd Fleet - Eastern and Northern Pacific (In peacetime the Third Fleet has no ARG and the carriers in the area are on their way to the Seventh Fleet or conduct training cruises after an overhaul for example.)
  • 5th Fleet - Middle East
  • 6th Fleet - Mediterranean
  • 7th Fleet - Western Pacific and Indian Ocean

Submarine warfare and nuclear deterrence

The submarine has a long history in the USN. It began in the late 19th century, with the building of the SS-1, the USS Holland. The boat was in service for 10 years and was a developmental and trials vessel for many systems on other early submarines.

The submarine really came of age in World War I. The USN did not have a large part in this war, with its action mainly being confined to escorting convoys later in the and sending a division of battleships to reinforce the British Grand Fleet. However, there were those in the USN submarine service who saw what the Germans had done with their U-boats and took careful note.

Doctrine in the inter-war years emphasised the submarine as a scout for the battle fleet, and also extreme caution in command. Both these axioms were shown to be wrong very quickly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The submarine skippers of the fleet boats of World War II waged a very effective campaign against Japanese merchant vessels, doing to Japan what Germany failed to do to the United Kingdom. They were aggressive in their prosecution of their task, and operated far from the fleet.

In addition to their commerce raiding role, submarines also proved valuable in air-sea rescue. There was many an American aircraft carrier pilot who owed his life to the valour of USN submarine crews.

After WWII, things continued along much the same path until the early 1950s. Then a revolution, that was to forever change the nature of the submarine arm occured. That revolution was the USS Nautilus.

The Nautilus was the first nuclear-powered submarine. Up until that point, submarines had really been, at their most basic level, torpedo boats that happened to be able to go underwater. They had been tied to the surface by the need to charge their batteries using diesel engines relatively often. The nuclear power plant of the Nautilus meant that the boat could stay underwater for literally months at a time. The only limit in the end being the amount of food that the boat could carry.

Another revolution in submarine warfare came with USS George Washington. Nuclear powered, like the Nautlius, the George Washington added strategic ballistic missiles to the mix. Earlier submarines had carried strategic missiles, but the boats had been diesel powered, and the missiles required the boat to surface in order to fire. The missiles were also cruise missiles, which were vulnerable to the defences of the day in a way that ballistic missiles were not.

The George Washington's missiles could be fired whilst the boat was submerged, meaning that it was far less likely to be detected before firing. The nuclear power of the boat also meant that, like the Nautilus, the George Washington's patrol length was only limited by the amount of food the boat could carry. Ballistic missile submarines, carrying Polaris missiles, eventually superseded all other strategic nuclear systems in the USN. Deterrent patrols continue to this day, although now with the Ohio class boatss and Trident missiles.

Given the lack of large scale conventional naval warfare since 1945, with the USN's role being primarily that of power projection, the submarine service did not fire weapons in anger for very many years. The development of a new generation of cruise missiles changed that. The BGM-109 Tomahawk missile was developed to give naval vessels a long range land attack capability. Other than direct shore bombardment, and strikes by aircraft flying off carriers, the ability of naval vessels to influence warfare on land was limited.

Now, instead of being limited to firing shells less than 20 miles inland from guns, any naval vessel fitted with the Tomahawk could hit targets up to 1,000 miles inland. The mainstay of the Tomahawk equipped vessels in the early days of the missile's deployment were the Iowa class battleships, and the submarine fleet. The Tomahawk was first used in combat on 17 January 1991, on the opening night of Operation Desert Storm. On that day, for the first time since the surrender of Japan in 1945, an American submarine fired in anger when Tomawhawks were launched by US boats in the eastern Mediterranean.

Since then, the Tomahawk has become a staple of American campaigns. It has seen use in no less than three separate wars. It has also been exported to the United Kingdom, which has also fitted it to submarines. The Tomahawk has seen a change in the design of attack submarines. At first it was fired through torpedo tubes, but more recent US boats have been fitted with vertical launch systems to enable them to carry more of the weapons.

In the early 21st century, the USN submarine fleet is made up entirely of nuclear powered vessels. It is the most powerful of its type in the world. However, there are those who worry that there are not enough boats in the fleet. As with other branches of the US military, the budget cuts of the Clinton years, followed up by the War on Terrorism have left little, or no slack in the system. This point is illustrated by the fact that in 2003, for the first time since 1945, a US submarine made two back-to-back war patrols.

Four F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron Forty One (VFA-41) fly over the Western Pacific Ocean in a stack formation. Taken October 25th 2003

Ships of the U.S. Navy

The names of combat ships of the U.S. Navy all start with USS, meaning 'United States Ship'. Non-combat, civilian-manned vessels of the U.S. Navy have names that begin with USNS, standing for 'United States Navy Ship'.

The U.S. Navy uses a letter based Hull classification symbol to designate a vessel's type.

Modern large ships use nuclear reactors for power. See United States Naval reactor for information on classification schemes and the history of nuclear powered vessels.

Notable ships

(See List of ships of the United States Navy for a more complete listing.)

Aircraft carriers

These are the major strategic arm of the Navy. They put U.S. air power within reach of most land-based military power.

Amphibious assault ships


These are the other major strategic arm of the Navy as they can be used directly to control naval and shipping activity by other powers as well as serving as
missile-launching platforms.






Early vessels

  • USS Constitution - "Old Ironsides," oldest commissioned warship afloat
  • USS Monitor - first US ironclad warship, also first rotating turret
  • USS Merrimac - a wooden warship rebuilt by the Confederates as the ironclad CSS Virginia
  • CSS Hunley - First Submarine successfully used in combat. Built by the Confederates near the end of the Civil War. Sank the USS Husitania with its spar-mounted torpedo, but was sunk during or soon after the same battle, with all hands on board.

Weapons systems

Naval aircraft

Notable members of the U.S. Navy

Related articles

Naval bases

  • Guantanamo Bay - small section on the south coast of Cuba is being leased by the United States and is used as a naval base.
  • Norfolk, Virginia - The largest Naval base in the world. This is the main port for ships on the east coast.
  • San Diego, California - A large Navy base. This is a main port for ships on the west coast.

External links