Strategy of maritime areas: 
US control of seas

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Classe(s) : Tle ES - Tle L - Tle S | Thème(s) : The globalized areas
Corpus Corpus 1
Strategy of maritime areas:
US control of seas





> card 28

80% of humanity lives on or near the coastline and 90% of commerce sails across the oceans. How does the USA control this maritime areas?

1 Strategic maritime shipping routes

 A sea lane* is a regularly used route for vessels on oceans. The main maritime route links the busiest port regions: North America (East and West Coasts), European Northern Range and Pacific Asia. It designs a circum-equatorial corridor through the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, the Strait* of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Strait of Malacca.

 This commercial shipping flow links major markets. The main role of the US Navy is to secure the maritime routes and especially the key strategic locations such as straits, isthmus and canals.

2 A traditional seapower

A Two goals: combat and deterrence

 The United States Navy (USN) is the most powerful naval warfare in the world. US maritime forces include the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. In 2015, they operate 284 ships, 54 submarines and more than 3,700 aircraft. The service consists of more than one-half million of people.

 During the Cold War, the US maritime strategy stressed preventing conflict. Deterrence was the new main goal of the Navy. Because of its location in Eastern and Northern Pacific Ocean areas including the Bering Sea, the Third Fleet’s primary mission was deterrence against the Soviet Union.

 Today, the US maritime strategy is still mainly focused on offensive operations. For example, the Sixth Fleet established around the Mediterranean Sea launched airstrikes* on Libya in 2011.

B Six fleets around the world

 According to these two goals, the US Navy has six active fleets – Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Tenth fleets. Each of them is localized on one sea or part of an ocean.

key figure The USA is planning to move 60% of its warships to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020, according to Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012.

 The Seventh Fleet is positioned near Japan and South Korea. It would be used in case of a conflict in Korea or a clash between People’s Republic of China and Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait.

3 A new maritime strategy

A Enhancing the soft power

 In 2007, a new US maritime strategy was defined. A wide variety of ships as “force packages” would be able to perform humanitarian or reconstruction work. In this way, local sympathy might be leveraged.

 The US Navy’s floating hospitals played a key role in the aftermath* of storms, hurricanes or tsunamis. The Second Fleet, disestablished in 2011, was deployed to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake to lead the humanitarian effort.

B Promoting a global maritime partnership

 The new maritime strategy promotes closer cooperation with the maritime forces of other nations. For the first time, it has declared the existence of a multi-polar world and has emphasized an internationalist foreign policy approach.

 On January 2009, the Fifth Fleet announced the formation of a multinational naval task force. The CTF-151 (Combined Task Force 151) combats piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia. An American boat was designated as the first flagship, backed up by five ships from Australia, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and the UK.

  • a sea lane = une route maritime
  • a strait = un détroit
  • an airstrike = une frappe aérienne
  • aftermath = conséquences


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