fleet in being

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First used in 1690 by British Admiral Arthur Herbert, 1st Earl of Torrington, in defending his strategy of keeping his fleet in port until reinforcements arrived, rather than engaging with the superior French force.


fleet in being (plural fleets in being)

  1. (military, navy, countable) A naval fleet which exerts an influence while remaining in port.
    • 1895, John Murray (publisher), The Quarterly Review[1], volume 182, page 6:
      In point of fact command of the sea and a fleet in being are mutually exclusive terms.
    • 1994, Colin S. Gray, The Navy in the Post-Cold War World: The Uses and Value of Strategic Sea Power[2], page 85:
      But even for that navy, with its strong tradition of offensive action, there were occasions when the fleet-in-being strategy was prudent and effective.
    • 2006, John J. Klein, Space Warfare: Strategy, Principles, and Policy, 122,
      Lines of communication in space, on the other hand, move physical elements, but they are also used to move non-physical elements as well, such as data and information. Consequently, the space equivalent to "fleet in being" should recognize this fundamental difference. [] Whereas the naval fleet in being strategy uses ships to dispute command of the sea, a space strategy employing a force in being may use physical assets as well as non-physical means.
    • 2007, James B. Wood, Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable?[3], page 81:
      It should instead have been saved as a reserve force, a fleet in being, as long as possible, and then committed in a Riskflotte operation at a key juncture, striking a decisive blow even if it involved its sacrifice.