The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff says Britain faces increasing threats from China and Russia as new global trade routes open as a result of climate change.
Admiral Tony Radakin was speaking during a visit to HMS Prince of Wales, where he set out his vision for the Navy ahead of the forthcoming Defence and Security Review.
Following recent speeches from the heads of the Army and Royal Air Force, it was the turn of the head of the Royal Navy.
Adm Radakin said: “A global Britain, open and outward looking, going out into the world again, in the spirit of our amazing seafaring history, a spirit that made us the world’s greatest maritime trading nation, and now the spirit of a new maritime age.”
The Admiral said the Royal Navy remains one of the most powerful maritime forces in the world – one of only three navies worldwide operating two aircraft carriers.
He added that the world is changing, with new threats and emerging foes: “But when China sails its growing navy into the Atlantic, which way will it come? The long route or the short?
"These routes skirt the coast of that resurgent Russia, a Russia that is now more active in the Atlantic, our back yard, than it has been for over 30 years.”
Pointing to the threat Russia poses to Britain’s crucial undersea cables, Adm Radakin said sub-sea warfare is an area the Navy must focus on.
He said: “We all know that data powers the world, from commercial transactions to private emails, from stock exchange trade to computer games, from medical research to television programmes.
“Ninety-seven per cent of that data travels on undersea cables and our adversaries are already threatening these.”
The Royal Navy Chief said the Navy’s fleet of minehunters would, in future years, become fully autonomous.
To critics of Britain’s new £6bn aircraft carriers, he said: “Those that said we couldn’t build these carriers, that we couldn’t crew two of them, couldn’t operate two of them, couldn’t fly aircraft from them, they were wrong.”
The major thrust of Adm Radakin’s speech was the future of the Royal Navy and, in particular, the projection of British power around the globe.
Some cutting-edge technology was on display, including a heavy lift drone which can supply ships with stores or spare parts.
The Royal Marines were there, showing off their latest weaponry. They too are being modernised, with the Admiral announcing plans to forward deploy company-sized units of future commandos around the world: “Eighty years ago, we invented the Royal Marine Commandos, to give ourselves a fighting edge when we needed it most.
“Today, we are reinventing them, returning them to their commando roots, equipping them with tomorrow’s technology, ready for tomorrow’s fights.”
Adm Radakin said the Royal Navy remains the maritime model for nations around the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic – global, modern and ready.