Sam Tangredi, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, claims that if history is any guide, China's numerical advantage is likely to result in defeat for the U.S. Navy in any war with China in the January issue of the US Naval Institute's Proceedings journal.

China has been referred to by Pentagon officials as a "pacing threat," but data on fleet sizes indicates that the U.S. military is unable to keep up with China's rapid naval development.

Former U.S. Navy Captain Tangredi examined 28 naval battles, ranging from the Greco-Persian Warfare of 500 BC to more modern Cold War proxy wars and interventions. Only three times, he discovered, did more advanced technology triumph against greater numbers.

"All other wars were won by superior numbers or, when between equal forces, superior strategy, or admiralship," Tangredi wrote. "Often all three qualities act together, because operating a large fleet generally facilitates more extensive training and is often an indicator that leaders are concerned with strategic requirements."

The three exceptions - battles from the 11th, 16th, and 19th centuries - are unlikely to be known to all but the most devoted of students, but others that demonstrate where numbers beat technology are.

According to the U.S. Navy's Navigation Plan 2022, announced last summer, the US fleet has less than 300 ships, and the Pentagon's aim is to have 350 manned ships, still lagging far behind China, by 2045.

Meanwhile, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) eclipsed the U.S. Navy in fleet size around 2020 and now has roughly 340 vessels, according to the Pentagon's 2022 China Military Power Report, released in November. According to the estimate, China's fleet will increase to 400 ships in the next two years.

Therefore, U.S. military authorities are depending on technology to compete.

In fact, there are concerns that the U.S. won't be able to meet the demand for giving weapons support to Ukraine to stave off Russia's invasion while maintaining US weapon supplies at appropriate levels.

Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, issued a challenge to the country's defense industries this week, stating, "You're not delivering the ordnance we need."

Caudle's boss, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, also mentioned the U.S.'s numerical disadvantage in a future Pacific confrontation in an online forum last week.

And if the U.S. Navy can't match China's missiles or ships, Tangredi asks where it can gain an advantage.

"I do not say that a smaller, technologically superior fleet could never defeat a much larger fleet," he wrote. "I only say that - with the possible exception of three cases in the past 1,200 years - none has."