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Monday 4 January 2016

NAVAL FORCES #8: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Naval Forces

Written by D-Mitch

Member States of NATO
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO /ˈnt/; French: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique Nord; OTAN), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949. The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. NATO's headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, where the Supreme Allied Commander also resides. Belgium is one of the 28 member states across North America and Europe. (source: wikipedia) The following graph depicts the Naval Forces of NATO in categories/types of warships. Next to the quantities I have included the percentage of the United States Naval Forces in order to highlight the important contribution of the U.S.A. to the Alliance. This time, I have included a table in the image, where I explain briefly the acronyms, the classes and how they differ with each other, as well the criteria I set for the inclusion or exclusion of a number of countries' warships.  I avoided each country's system of pennant numbers and classification (sometimes for political reasons) such as -D- for George Leygues class making them in that way to belong to destroyer type despite the non destroyer's capabilities and the small size of the class. I tried to avoid also the unfair categorization of warships in a higher position in the hierarchy such as the Pauk or Joao Coutinho class to corvettes without having missile launch capability while other larger ships such as those of Holland class are classified as oceanic patrol vessels. I tried to avoid all these unfair classifications and based on capabilities, size and armament I divided all the classes (in brackets) except of the auxiliary ships in 18 main types/categories. Warships that are out of service (cannibalized) or in reserve (without sensors or weapons) are not included in the graph.

Analytically, the criteria I set are the following:
  1. Nuclear-powered Ballistic Missile Submarines: the nuclear-powered submarines that are equipped to launch submarine-launched ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads (SSBN)
  2. Nuclear-powered Cruise Missile Submarines: the nuclear-powered submarines that are equipped to launch submarine-launched cruise missiles. These are former SSBN
  3. Nuclear-powered Attack Submarines: nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) that have the main task to attack enemy vessels. 
  4. Diesel-electric Attack Submarines: conventional submarines (SSNK) that have the main task to attack enemy vessels.  
  5. Nuclear-powered Aircraft Carriers: nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVN). The ten (10) out of 11 are USN super-carriers.
  6. Aircraft Carriers: diesel-electric aircraft carriers (CV) and light aircraft carriers (CVL).
  7. Large Helicopter Carriers: this class includes all those ships that have the primary mission to operate a a large number of helicopters or aircrafts and they support amphibious operations. Thus, here they are included Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ships and Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) ships. 
  8. Amphibious Support Ships: all the large ships that fill two of the following requirements such as ships the capability too support amphibious operations, ships that have floodable dock for landing crafts, they can operate more than two helicopters on large flight deck and they have hangar to accommodate them. Thus, in this class are included Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ships like San Giorgio class, Landing Ship Dock (LSD) like Bay Class and partly LPH like the unique Argus.
  9. Landing Tank Ships: ships that are larger than 90m and they support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles and tanks (LST).
  10. Cruisers: the largest and most powerful surface combatant (excluding aircraft carriers) today. These are warships with the main taks to provide air defence to battle groups and to the fleet but also to perform a variety of roles including land-attack, anti-submarine warfare and escort.The acronym -G- stands for "guided-missile".
  11. Anti-Aircraft Warfare (AAW) Destroyers and Frigates: in this category they belong ships that have the primary mission to provide anti-aircraft protection to other ships and for this role they are equipped with launcher(s) dedicated to this role and only. They carry also more than 16 long-range missiles. Perry class frigates are excluded because they have a single launcher to fire both anti-aircraft missiles (AAM) and surface-surface missiles (SSM).
  12. Multi-mission Frigates: ships larger than 100m that carry missiles and capable to carry out a large variety of missions.  These ships may have limited AAW capabability (such as Bergamini class), or they may not have (such as Kortenaer class).
  13. Light Frigates and Corvettes: ships between 70-100m that are equipped with missile or torpedo launchers. In this category they belong corvettes (FFL) armed with anti-ship missiles (such as Braunschweig class), torpedo launchers (such as Tetal class) or with both (such as Ada class). The Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) belong to this category as well as in the future will be equipped with anti-ship missiles and they will be categorized as fast frigates (FF).
  14. Fast Attack Missile Craft: boats that are fast, small in size (no less than 200t at full load) and they carry surface-to-surface missiles (SSM).
  15. Offshore Patrol Vessels: offshore patrol vessels (OPV) that are larger than 1,000t in displacement at full load and they are armed mainly with guns and they may are equipped with or without helicopter deck and/or hangar and their primary mission is surveillance. Danish ships that belong to this category have the provision to be equipped with missiles via the StanFlex modules but they are  not equipped with them and they operate as ocean patrol ships. Also, the Romanian Type 22, even though are very large as frigates (they are actually former frigates), they are equipped at the moment only with a 3in naval gun and machine guns and they can operate only as large ocean patrol vessels. In this category they belong also all the former Portuguese corvettes as well as the D'Estienne d'Orves (those that serve with French Navy) which have their heavy weapons removed and are reclassified as oceanic patrol ships. Large Norwegian Coast Guard ships belong also here as the Norwegian Coast Guard is part of the Royal Norwegian Navy.
  16. Large Patrol Boats: patrol boats (PB) and river patrol boats that are larger than 50m in length and less than 1,000t displacement at full load and they are armed mainly with guns and their primary mission is surveillance close to the coast.
  17. Mine-Countermeasure Vessels: mine-countermeasure vessels (MCM) such as mine-sweepers and mine hunters larger than 200t with the primary role of mine sweeping and mine hunting.
  18. Large air-cushioned landing craft: air-cushioned landing craft that are larger than 50m, heavily armed and they do not operate from mother-ships. In this category they belong the Hellenic Navy Zubr class vessels of which two (2) out of four (4) are only active.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Naval Forces as of Jan 2016. For a high resolution image click here


  1. The French Charles de Gaulle is the only non-American CVN (until the speculated commissioning of a Chinese ship for 2030). Both CV are Italian and Spanish ships that carries a dozen Harriers. 2 LCAC are Greek Zubr from Russia (4 originally).

    1. The Juan Carlos I is an LHD that is used as an aircraft carrier thus the two CV/CVL are both Italian. From the four Greek LCAC, only two are operational.

    2. OK, I thought the Cavour was ranked in the LHD;

      For Greek Zubr, there have been rumors that China wanted to acquire it several months ago.

    3. I have proved with photos that these are just rumors ;-)