Completing the Pivot to Asia


Thomas Callender

Security, Asia

The U.S. Navy is outnumbered in the Pacific. If it wishes to stay competitive, then it must move ships from the United States to Japan and the Philippines.

Completing the Pivot to Asia

Remember President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”? In 2012, then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Navy would put about 60 percent of its forces in the Pacific.

Seven years later, the pivot is complete. But is it enough to protect vital American interests in the region?

The U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet comprises more than 170 vessels. They’re responsible for a vast maritime area of operation—one that spans almost forty-eight million square miles. Not everyone in the pool plays nice. Russia, China and North Korea splash in the same waters.

And not all of our ships are in the western sector. Only the Seventh Fleet is forward deployed, and as of June 17, it had only fifty-seven warships. The remainder of the Pacific Fleet is located in Hawaii, California and Washington state.

Compared to Chinese and Russian naval forces in the region, the United States enjoys superior training and a technological advantage. They are, however, vastly outnumbered.

China boasts 182 submarines and ships of corvette-size or larger; Russia’s eastern fleet has twenty-seven submarines and surface ships. Although we do not envision Beijing and Moscow operating together, their combined Pacific naval forces outnumber the Seventh Fleet by a four to one ratio. If smaller vessels such coastal missile patrol craft and mine warfare ships are included, then the “other side’s” tally grows by another 156 ships. And that doesn’t include the almost 450 paramilitary Chinese coast guard vessels.

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