Talk:Fleet in being

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Fleet in being[edit]

I am a bit sceptical of the article in its current form. All the quoted examples are presented as relatively successful uses of the fleet-in-being strategy. I am convinced that a historical analysis would come to the conclusion that most uses of this strategy is a waste of resources.


The Italian example quoted doesn't make sense - Taranto was in November 1940, well before the contested Malta convoys. -- Cyclopaedic 22:38, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

I tried to add a reference to Saddam Husseins use of his airforce as and airforce-in-being but for some reason it turned up as two references. I have tried but failed to correct it. I would appreciate if someone more experienced in wikipedia editing could correct it.



I don't quite agree with the above comment ("I am a bit skeptical..."). I certainly think that there's room to criticize the approach and to point out examples where it has been particularly controversial (the effectiveness of Tirpitz' naval theories etc.) but I think a broader criticism of it as a generally unsuccessful strategy that is being given disproportionately positive examples is a bit off. Most people would recognize that the German fleet in being was not tremendously successful; but fleets, armies, "forces in being" have so often exerted a powerful influence without direct involvement that I think any criticism or praise of it should probably be dependant on specific historical contexts.

I'm also wondering somewhat about the statements about it being an obsolete strategy; I would think that there's something fairly perpetual about the notion of "forces in being," including fleets, which while vulnerable to air attack are also probably mobile enough now to allow for fleet-in-being strategies in, for example, coastal naval situations with integrated air defence.

On the whole I liked the article. 02:01, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

Good points. Currently there is no problem with too much positive examples of fleet-in-being in the article, quite the contrary actually.
Indeed there is something fairly perpetual about the notion of forces in being. Currently, however, a fleet in a port is so vulnerable that staying in port makes you more vulnerable, not less thus defeating the entire purpose of the strategy. And staying in port is how we have defined the concept of "fleet-in-being" at the beginning of the article. Perhaps future technology will change this allowing us to create almost unimpregnable ports. (Yes, that does sound unlikely but new technology usually does.) Perhaps we should say obsolete for the time being or something to that effect. I fail to find a good choice of word to describe this. I really don't know if a fleet-in-being strategy with a mobile fleet in coastal waters might work but suspect it wouldn't. However, since we have defined the fleet-in-being strategy as staying in port at the beginning of the article your idea of a high mobility semi-hidden isn't a fleet-in-being strategy at all. The way I see it, you must either a) suggest a new definition of the term fleet-in-being that does not involve staying in port, b)suggest that fleets are relatively safe in a port (which quite frankly, would be silly, I don't expect you to suggest that) or c) accept that fleet-in-being strategy is indeed currently obsolete.
I am glad you liked the article.

Markbassett 23:01, 31 August 2007 (UTC) I will add to questions that the description of it being a harbor strategy may be off -- it was a fleet in being AT SEA, allowing a smaller force to tie down a larger one, achieving strategic purpose by avoiding tactical action. I note the contrary example in Napoleonic era of the French fleets in harbor; these were blockaded, so instead it was the British force which was smaller and achieving it's strategic ends of not being invaded or having commerce stopped. The French also lost strategically in that the immobile fleets could not exercise sailing to train crews, nor do fleet manuevers, whereas the German fleets in WW I and II in the Baltic could exercise their crews.

You are quite right, Markbassett. Fleet-in-being interpreted as a strategy or operational doctrine of staying in port and still exerting influence is very different from fleet-in-being interpreted as a stragegy or operational doctrine of going to sea but avoiding tactial engagement. I do not know if the word "Fleet-in-being" is used to describe the latter strategy/operational method. If someone can tell us if the word is used in this sense, please tell us. If it is, we need to redefine the word so it includes both interpretations and discuss them separately. -Sensemaker

The extensions to land and air warfare are unreferenced and, in my view, weak. I particularly dislike the refernce to guerillla war - surely a guerilla force taht stayed at home and avoided engaging the enemy would not be achieving anything?

The section on world war one should be expanded - the stand-off in the North Sea must surely be the prime example of the doctrine. But my understanding is that for most of the war the British sought a fleet action with the Germans, and the Germans sought to maintain a fleet in being - though the Germans did actively try to provoke an engagement with a small part of the British fleet, hoping to remove the British numerical advantage by sinking a squadron or so.

The world war two section is also weak. I think the article should concentrate exclusively on actual, referenced applications of the doctine, and not on analogies.

Proper referencing would probably cure all these problems. Cyclopaedic (talk) 10:42, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

The reason I am willing to allow extention about air and land warfare is that in military writings I have seen the expression "fleet-in-being" used outside (referring to armies and air forces rather than navies) about as often as inside a naval warfare context. In my opinion this allows and perhaps even mandates a brief extension (extention into area of aerial and land warfare is just four sentences)of the subject. Guerilla warfare and general assymetric warfare is an extention of the exteention of the subject and thus one step too far in my opinion. It makes us digress from the subject at hand. Incidentally, the air warfare part does have proper reference. It is actually the only reference in the entire article. -Sensemaker
One other example of a fleet in being, that was politically and emotionally difficult to deal with, was the French Fleet after the defeat of France in 1940.
I think this is a useful article. People here are dismissing a fleet in being as an outdated concept. But a fleet can also consist of submarines, and the problems with subs is that it can be hard to tell if they are in port. There are considerations of what to do about a non belligerent power that may suddenly swing over to help an enemy. Take for example Stalin's problems in 1941 over whether to withdraw divisions from Siberia with Imperial Japan on the border. Also there is the case of limited warfare. The Argentinians could have found this article useful! For political reasons the British could not attack the Argentinian fleet in harbour during the Falklands War. But as history shows it could and did sink the Belgrano on the high seas without too much political flack. Would the landings still have been made at San Carlos (instead of on the eastern coast) had the Blegrano been held in reserve ready to steam immediately upon receiving conformation of the British landings? For the British the removal of the Belgrano must have simplified their risk assessments when deciding whether to land at San Carlos. -- PBS (talk) 01:32, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
Glad you think the article is useful. Your thoughts are also wise and useful. The political dimension is indeed relevant and can easily create a fleet-in-being-like situation. That said, it would be irresponsibly cavalier to build your naval doctrine based on the assumption that an enemy would not attack you in harbour for political reasons. I have made som additions to add your input to the article. -Sensemaker

Expansion of details[edit]

Markbassett 23:01, 31 August 2007 (UTC) I am thinking of ideas for material to the article, in particular as follows. Would appreciate suggestions of folks as to what to do with these. [* A cite to the mentioned Mayher work ... not sure if this would better be a citation or a reference, but it seems where the modern usage stems from. [* Cite to where Mahan attributes the phrase to Torrington [* Mention that he used it in his courtmartial defense, makes me want to cite the courtmartial (not found), or the orders for him to attack (not found) [* Links to Lord Torrington's battle, the invasion it was to aide, are possible but seem a bit off-topic. [* Addition that per Geoffrey Till, "fleet in being" played a part back to the Peloponnesian War (citation needed), although the terms modern use derives from Mahan from Torrington's actions and his defense in courtmartial. (citation needed) [* Other links such as


Why is Mahan credited with the first use when Torrington predates him by over a century? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:54, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

Evolution and the Creation of Future Articles[edit]

Evolution is natural for both man and machines. From the US Horse Cavalry to the Sheridan's of the Vietnam War. From the wooden ships powered by sail, to the engine powered steel ships of the 20th century. But they each had their own websites, or Wikipedia articles. There are articles on "Ships of Sail" and "Modern Vessels", but they are generally not combined into one article.

As an example, a writer would not generally combine Soviet General Zhukov's tank battles at Nomonhan with Wellington's cavalry battle at Waterloo; and yet Zhukov deployed cavalry BT tanks at Nomonhan. The name (cavalry) was the same, but Zhukov's "cavalry" tanks are not Wellington's "cavalry." The cavalry horse evolved into a cavalry tank; thus TWO DIFFERENT articles.

This article is about "Naval Warfare" and one of the elements of it; a fleet in being. To use comparisons of airpower or land power would infringe upon this topic. For example, it "could" be said that Germany's need to destroy Britain's RAF before they could invade across the English channel, or Japan's need to destroy the US Air Corp's Airfield at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines could be construed to be "air power versions of a fleet in being." This would require a different Wikipedia Article (or at least a redirect to it.

All they need is a writer to research those associated subjects, to create another article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:55, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

I disagree. I have on several occasions seen the expressions like "analoguous to a fleet-in-being" or "acted like an army-in-being". Therefore it is relevant to point out that the basic idea behind the fleet-in-being can and has been generalised to include other forces. In the source mentioned in the text, an airforce in being is discussed. However, army-in-being or airforce-in-being are not established expressions like a fleet-in-being. It is highly likely that someone who read this expression and looked it up had seen it in a situation that does not concern a naval. Leaving them with only references to naval matters would make the article useless or just confusing ("I read the article 'fleet-in-being' in wikipedia and it had nothing to do with air war, the author who talked about "fleet-in-being" on the subject of air war must be mistaken.") to them.
If the articles you mentioned were created, ("air power versions of a fleet in being.") it would be sufficient to just have a reference to these. However, until those articles exist, I believe it is necessary for the benefit of the reader to briefly explain that the logic behind a "fleet-in-being" can and has been generalized to other forces.

Julian Corbett’s views[edit]

This might be an interesting avenue for further article development:

Julian Corbett’s views, in particular, were strongly criticised [by the Soviet navy] as allegedly ignoring the lessons of the Spanish-American and Russo-Japanese wars. The new trend in Soviet naval theory was to argue that the old ideas that Nelson represented in terms of general fleet engagements and blockade were no longer valid for modern naval thought.92 However, in the years between 1946 and 1953 Soviet naval attitudes seemed to have modified and begun to accept Corbett’s understanding of a ‘fleet-inbeing’ strategy in the way that Corbett had attributed its understanding to Nelson in the Mediterranean in 1796: ‘an inferior fleet kept actively in being’ in order to exploit its ‘general power of holding such command [of the sea] in dispute’.93

  • 92. Robert W. Herrick, Soviet Naval Theory and Policy: Gorshkov’s Inheritance (Newport: Naval War College Press, 1988), pp. 12–13, 202–3, 206–7.
  • 93. Ibid., p. 188, and also 225, 270; Julian S. Corbett, Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, edited with an introduction by Eric Grove, Classics of Sea Power series (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988), pp. 223–4. Corbett’s comments are based on Nelson’s letter to the Duke of Clarence, 19 August 1796. Nicolas (ed.), Letters, vol. III, p. 246.
John B. Hattendorf (2005). "Chapter 8: Nelson Afloat: A Hero Among the World’s Navies". In David Cannadine. Admiral Lord Nelson Context and Legacy. asingstoke, & New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 183. ISBN 978–1–4039–3906–7 Check |isbn= value (help). 

--PBS (talk) 06:26, 5 November 2011 (UTC)