Two years have passed since Le Bourget hosted the last Euronaval show, two years during which the maritime world has become increasingly multipolar.

For example, just in the submarine business, more than 40 countries are nowadays involved. In the meantime, Russia added 28 new ships to its fleet in 2018 alone,while China, with a production rate of one frigate and one submarine a month, is supposed to supplant the United States as the world’s largest navy by the end of this year. “China soon should have six aircraft carriers; the first being in service, the second being tested and the third under construction, while the number of corvettes jumped from 16 in 2012 to 56 today and the number of destroyers from 18 to 29,” stresses Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix, senior research fellow at the Paris War College.

These are a few of the facts laid out at the outset of the Euronaval 2018 late October exhibit in its inaugural conference, prompting several European naval commanders to present what could be described as a wake-up call on military strategy in the maritime domain. Both France and the United Kingdom were major naval powers till the end of the Cold War, in third and fourth positions after the USA and the USSR in 1990: they still are among the top 10, but have slipped to fifth and sixth position, with China and Japan now right in between.

The United Kingdom has therefore embarked on a “quantum leap” modernization program centered around the Queen Elizabeth carriers, which Commodore Steve Allen, Royal Navy Assistant Chief of staff Carrier Strike and Aviation, described as “built with flexibility and redundancy in mind. This marks the resurgence of big decks and the redefinition of what multi-mission is all about thanks to the F-35B’s ability to deliver air-to-air, air-to-surface or electronic attack capability to  “exploit the battlespace to the maximum advantage,” Allen says. Adopting Theodore Roosevelt’s famous motto — Speak softly and carry a big stick — Commodore Allen indeed did speak softly but laid out a pretty impressive picture of where the Royal Navy is today.

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