Brian J. Dunn raises a valid point, that even though our Navy may be smaller than past years, there's really no comparison when you consider firepower:
Today's ships, including small ships and subs, can all carry ship-killing missiles. And all but the smallest combatants can carry helicopters that can carry anti-ship missiles. We no longer have our striking power limited to the battleships and carriers. That's why I called more of our ships capital ships. While our number are misleadingly similar, our modern fleet is far more capable on a ship-for-ship basis compared to the rest of the contemporary fleet. The 1941 fleet had a few capital ships and a large number of far less capable light escorts.
Our fleet is the best in the world and comparisons to our 1941 fleet are almost as pointless as comparing it to our Civil War-era fleet. I suppose comparing our fleet to our fleet of 1941 might have some remote relevance if we still faced the foes of 1941.
This is an issue I've raised various times, that since the 1990's we have deployed over 10,000 missile launchers to sea, capable of firing anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-sub weapons much farther than the old gun navy of as recently as the 1980's. Interestingly, it was the last of the big gun ships, the Iowa class, which first fielded the Tomahawk on surface ships.
My only concern is, with so much overkill at sea, why can't we now construct smaller, cheaper littoral ships, better able to support land operations against our Al Qaeda enemy, and to keep our ship numbers up? The Air Force and Navy always insist they refuse to fight fair, but in so doing, with so many hi-tech, hi-cost purchases, they are limiting themselves in a war of attrition, as we now face in Iraq. More on this subject tomorrow.