Top Ten: May 16, 2005

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  Who will be the major world powers twenty years from now? This is a difficult prediction to make, largely because in 20 years, many unexpected changes could take place. For example, two decades ago, the United States and Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Nobody expected that in five years from then, the Berlin Wall would fall and the Soviet Union would literally disintegrate. That said, there is an idea of who is emerging, and who is fading.

10. Brazil This country is emerging as the dominant military and economic force in Latin America. It operates the only aircraft carrier outside the US Navy in the Western Hemisphere. Currently, Brazil is trying to build up its forces still more, and is pursuing a program to build a nuclear-powered attack submarine and could be pursuing nuclear weapons development as well.

9. South Korea This country has an indigenous naval program that is quite solid, and one of the better armies in the world. The only thing holding it back is a reliance on foreign designs for aircraft, although it is manufacturing F-16s locally.

8. Germany Despite reductions in the German defense budget after the end of the Cold War, this military has several quality systems (like the Leopard 2 main battle tank and the Type 212 submarine). Germany also has had a tradition of effective military forces (just ask the Romans).

7. Japan This is a country which has, with one hand tied behind its back, developed the number two navy in the Pacific Rim, and arguably the second-best air force (tied with China). The only thing that holds Japan back is an apparent lack of desire. Things could rapidly change on that front, though.

6. Russia This country has a lot of nukes, and a lot of bombers. While naval designs (like the Kirov-class battlecruisers and Oscar-class submarines) are good on paper, they still have quality issues, and accidents are not unheard of. Still, this is a country that has some advantages, and is no pushover.

5. France Probably in better shape than what one would expect. This is largely because of the quality of the troops (due to career NCOs). Has remained self-sufficient in terms of producing major weapons systems (see the Rafale), and operates the only CVN outside the U.S. Navy (even though it has had problems).

4. China This is a force that has quantity on its side, and is rapidly trying to improve its quality. Their air force will probably have the largest force of Su-27 fighters in the world (at least 580, compared to the 550 in Russian service). The Chinese navy is rapidly introducing new classed of destroyers and frigates that are close to the quality of American and Japanese surface combatants. That said, it is still behind, and the Chinese financial situation could go downhill rapidly.

3. UK While small, this is a force that not only had a tradition of high quality, it has proven as recently as 1982 that it can operate half a world away and still accomplish a difficult mission. Sailor for sailor, there is no better navy than the Royal Navy.

2. India Probably the most dynamic country in terms of the leaps. India is rapidly becoming self-sufficient in a number of areas, and what it cannot produce, it is able to buy. It also has some of the best training in the world, and can give an unsuspecting opponent a surprise. Probably the next superpower due to a more firm economic footing, and the fact that its Navy is much more advanced than Chinas.

1. USA Even while fighting a war on terrorism, the United States is pursuing new technology (such as UCAVs) to maintain an edge over any potential challenger. The forces are well-trained, and the United States Navy is still the most powerful in the world. The term superpower almost understates what the United States can do it is arguably a hyperpower. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 

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