The fleets of the world's navies continued to decline in numbers in 2003, with many governments, particularly in Europe, planning further cuts in current platforms and future construction programs. Only a handful of fleets are likely to show any growth over the next decade. To be sure, new and very capable technologies are being introduced, but the number of ships to carry them will not begin to replace the older ships now being retired or sold.
This survey of developments in 2003 and through January 2004 is arranged by ship type, starting with aircraft carriers and followed by submarines and surface combatants. A brief discussion of the most important developments in the mine warfare, amphibious ship and craft, and auxiliary categories is included. Displacement is given as full-load for surface ships and submerged for submarines.