The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom’s naval warfare force. The Royal Navy is part of Her Majesty’s Naval Service, which also includes the Royal Marines. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK’s armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
From the middle decades of the 17th century and through the 18th century, the Royal Navy vied with the Dutch Navy and later with the French Navy for maritime supremacy. From the mid-18th century, it was the world’s most powerful Navy until surpassed by the United States Navy during the Second World War. The Royal Navy played a key part in establishing the British Empire as the unmatched world power during the 19th and the first part of the 20th centuries. Due to this historical prominence, it is common, even among non-Britons, to refer to it as “the Royal Navy” without qualification.
Following World War I, the Royal Navy was significantly reduced in size although at the onset of the Second World War it was still the world’s largest.
As of 19 March 2016, there are 77 commissioned ships (including submarines) in the Royal Navy, plus 9 ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).
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