A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions. It includes anything conducted by surface ships, amphibious ships, submarines, and seaborne aviation, as well as ancillary support, communications, training, and other fields. The strategic offensive role of a navy is projection of force into areas beyond a country's shores (for example, to protect sea-lanes, deter or confront piracy, ferry troops, or attack other navies, ports, or shore installations). The strategic defensive purpose of a navy is to frustrate seaborne projection-of-force by enemies. The strategic task of the navy also may incorporate nuclear deterrence by use of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Naval operations can be broadly divided between riverine and littoral applications (brown-water navy), open-ocean applications (blue-water navy), and something in between (green-water navy), although these distinctions are more about strategic scope than tactical or operational division.
First attested in English in the early 14th century, ναῦς (naus), "ship", ναύτης (nautes), "seaman, sailor". The earliest attested form of the word is in the Mycenaean Greek compound word 𐀙𐀄𐀈𐀗, na-u-do-mo (*naudomoi), "shipbuilders", written in Linear B syllabic script.the word "navy" came via Old French navie, "fleet of ships", from the Latin navigium, "a vessel, a ship, bark, boat", from navis, "ship". The word "naval" came from Latin navalis, "pertaining to ship"; cf. Greek
The word formerly denoted fleets of both commercial and military nature. In modern usage "navy" used alone always denotes a military fleet, although the term "merchant navy" for a commercial fleet still incorporates the non-military word sense. This overlap in word senses between commercial and military fleets grew out of the inherently dual-use nature of fleets; centuries ago, nationality was a trait that unified a fleet across both civilian and military uses. Although nationality of commercial vessels has little importance in peacetime trade other than for tax avoidance, it can have greater meaning during wartime, when supply chains become matters of patriotic attack and defense, and when in some cases private vessels are even temporarily converted to military vessels. The latter was especially important, and common, before 20th-century military technology existed, when merely adding artillery and naval infantry to any sailing vessel could render it fully as martial as any military-owned vessel. Such privateering has been rendered obsolete in blue-water strategy since modern missile and aircraft systems grew to leapfrog over artillery and infantry in many respects; but privateering nevertheless remains potentially relevant in littoral warfare of a limited and asymmetric nature.
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Naval warfare developed when humans first fought from water-borne vessels. Before the introduction of the cannon and ships with enough capacity to carry them, navy warfare primarily involved ramming and boarding actions. In the time of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, naval warfare centered on long, narrow vessels powered by banks of oarsmen (such as triremes and quinqueremes) designed to ram and sink enemy vessels or come alongside the enemy vessel so its occupants could be attacked hand-to-hand. Naval warfare continued in this vein through the Middle Ages until the cannon became commonplace and capable of being reloaded quickly enough to be reused in the same battle. The Chola Dynasty of medieval Tamil Nadu was known as one of the greatest naval powers of its time from 300 BC to 1279 AD. The Chola Navy, Chola kadarpadai comprised the naval forces of the Chola Empire along with several other Naval-arms of the country. The Chola navy played a vital role in the expansion of the Chola Tamil kingdom, including the conquest of the Sri Lanka islands, Kadaaram (Present day Burma), Sri Vijaya (present day Southeast Asia), the spread of Hinduism, Tamil architecture and Tamil culture to Southeast Asia and in curbing the piracy in Southeast Asia in 900 CE. In ancient China, large naval battles were known since the Qin dynasty (also see Battle of Red Cliffs, 208), employing the war junk during the Han dynasty. However, China's first official standing navy was not established until the Southern Song dynasty in the 12th century, a time when gunpowder was a revolutionary new application to warfare.
Nusantaran thalassocracies made extensive use of naval power and technologies. This enabled the seafaring Malay people to attack as far as the coast of Tanzania and Mozambique with 1000 boats and attempted to take the citadel of Qanbaloh, about 7,000 km to their West, in 945-946 AD. In 1350 AD Majapahit launched its largest military expedition, the invasion of Pasai, with 400 large jong and innumerable smaller vessels. The second largest military expedition, invasion of Singapura in 1398, Majapahit deployed 300 jong with no less than 200,000 men.
The mass and deck space required to carry a large number of cannon made oar-based propulsion impossible, and ships came to rely primarily on sails. Warships were designed to carry increasing numbers of cannon and naval tactics evolved to bring a ship's firepower to bear in a broadside, with ships-of-the-line arranged in a line of battle.
The development of large capacity, sail-powered ships carrying cannon led to a rapid expansion of European navies, especially the Spanish and Portuguese navies which dominated in the 16th and early 17th centuries, and helped propel the age of exploration and colonialism. The repulsion of the Spanish Armada (1588) by the English fleet revolutionized naval warfare by the success of a guns-only strategy and caused a major overhaul of the Spanish Navy, partly along English lines, which resulted in even greater dominance by the Spanish. From the beginning of the 17th century the Dutch cannibalized the Portuguese Empire in the East and, with the immense wealth gained, challenged Spanish hegemony at sea. From the 1620s, Dutch raiders seriously troubled Spanish shipping and, after a number of battles which went both ways, the Dutch Navy finally broke the long dominance of the Spanish Navy in the Battle of the Downs (1639).
England emerged as a major naval power in the mid-17th century in the first Anglo-Dutch war with a technical victory. Successive decisive Dutch victories in the second and third Anglo-Dutch Wars confirmed the Dutch mastery of the seas during the Dutch Golden Age, financed by the expansion of the Dutch Empire. The French Navy won some important victories near the end of the 17th century but a focus upon land forces led to the French Navy's relative neglect, which allowed the Royal Navy to emerge with an ever-growing advantage in size and quality, especially in tactics and experience, from 1695. As a response to growing naval influence of the navies of Portuguese, the warrior king of the Marathas, Shivaji laid the foundation of the Maratha navy in 1654.
Throughout the 18th century the Royal Navy gradually gained ascendancy over the French Navy, with victories in the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), inconclusive battles in the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748), victories in the Seven Years' War (1754–1763), a partial reversal during the American War of Independence (1775–1783), and consolidation into uncontested supremacy during the 19th century from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. These conflicts saw the development and refinement of tactics which came to be called the line of battle.
The next stage in the evolution of naval warfare was the introduction of metal plating along the hull sides. The increased mass required steam-powered engines, resulting in an arms race between armor and weapon thickness and firepower. The first armored vessels, the French Gloire and British HMS Warrior, made wooden vessels obsolete. Another significant improvement came with the invention of the rotating turrets, which allowed the guns to be aimed independently of ship movement. The battle between CSS Virginia and USS Monitor during the American Civil War (1861–1865) is often cited as the beginning of this age of maritime conflict. The Russian Navy was considered the third strongest in the world on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, which turned to be a catastrophe for the Russian military in general and the Russian Navy in particular. Although neither party lacked courage, the Russians were defeated by the Japanese in the Battle of Port Arthur, which was the first time in warfare that mines were used for offensive purposes. The warships of the Baltic Fleet sent to the Far East were lost in the Battle of Tsushima. A further step change in naval firepower occurred when the United Kingdom launched HMS Dreadnought in 1906, but naval tactics still emphasized the line of battle.
The first practical military submarines were developed in the late 19th century and by the end of World War I had proven to be a powerful arm of naval warfare. During World War II, Nazi Germany's submarine fleet of U-boats almost starved the United Kingdom into submission and inflicted tremendous losses on U.S. coastal shipping. The German battleship Tirpitz, a sister ship of Bismarck, was almost put out of action by miniature submarines known as X-Craft. The X-Craft severely damaged her and kept her in port for some months.
A major paradigm shift in naval warfare occurred with the introduction of the aircraft carrier. First at Taranto in 1940 and then at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the carrier demonstrated its ability to strike decisively at enemy ships out of sight and range of surface vessels. The Battle of Leyte Gulf (1944) was arguably the largest naval battle in history; it was also the last battle in which battleships played a significant role. By the end of World War II, the carrier had become the dominant force of naval warfare.
World War II also saw the United States become by far the largest Naval power in the world. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the United States Navy possessed over 70% of the world's total numbers and total tonnage of naval vessels of 1,000 tons or greater. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the United States Navy would maintain a tonnage greater than that of the next 17 largest navies combined. During the Cold War, the Soviet Navy became a significant armed force, with large numbers of large, heavily armed ballistic missile submarines and extensive use of heavy, long-ranged antisurface missiles to counter the numerous United States carrier battle groups. Only two nations, the United States and France, presently operate CATOBAR carriers of any size, while Russia, China and India operate sizeable STOBAR carriers (although all three are originally of Russian design). The United Kingdom is also operating two Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, which are the largest STOVL vessels in service, and India is currently building one aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, and considering another. France is also looking at a new carrier, probably using a CATOBAR system and possibly based on the British Queen Elizabeth design.
A navy typically operates from one or more naval bases. The base is a port that is specialized in naval operations, and often includes housing, a munitions depot, docks for the vessels, and various repair facilities. During times of war temporary bases may be constructed in closer proximity to strategic locations, as it is advantageous in terms of patrols and station-keeping. Nations with historically strong naval forces have found it advantageous to obtain basing rights in other countries in areas of strategic interest.
Navy ships can operate independently or with a group, which may be a small squadron of comparable ships, or a larger naval fleet of various specialized ships. The commander of a fleet travels in the flagship, which is usually the most powerful vessel in the group. Before radio was invented, commands from the flagship were communicated by means of flags. At night signal lamps could be used for a similar purpose. Later these were replaced by the radio transmitter, or the flashing light when radio silence was needed.
A "blue water navy" is designed to operate far from the coastal waters of its home nation. These are ships capable of maintaining station for long periods of time in deep ocean, and will have a long logistical tail for their support. Many are also nuclear powered to save having to refuel. By contrast a "brown water navy" operates in the coastal periphery and along inland waterways, where larger ocean-going naval vessels can not readily enter. Regional powers may maintain a "green water navy" as a means of localized force projection. Blue water fleets may require specialized vessels, such as minesweepers, when operating in the littoral regions along the coast.
A basic tradition is that all ships commissioned in a navy are referred to as ships rather than vessels, with the exception of destroyers and submarines, which are known as boats. The prefix on a ship's name indicates that it is a commissioned ship.
An important tradition on board naval vessels of some nations has been the ship's bell. This was historically used to mark the passage of time, as warning devices in heavy fog, and for alarms and ceremonies.
The ship's captain, and more senior officers are "piped" aboard the ship using a Boatswain's call.
In the United States, the First Navy Jack is a flag that has the words, "Don't Tread on Me" on the flag.
By English tradition, ships have been referred to as a "she". However, it was long considered bad luck to permit women to sail on board naval vessels. To do so would invite a terrible storm that would wreck the ship. The only women that were welcomed on board were figureheads mounted on the prow of the ship.
Firing a cannon salute partially disarms the ship, so firing a cannon for no combat reason showed respect and trust. As the tradition evolved, the number of cannon fired became an indication of the rank of the official being saluted.
Historically, navy ships were primarily intended for warfare. They were designed to withstand damage and to inflict the same, but only carried munitions and supplies for the voyage (rather than merchant cargo). Often, other ships which were not built specifically for warfare, such as the galleon or the armed merchant ships in World War II, did carry armaments. In more recent times, navy ships have become more specialized and have included supply ships, troop transports, repair ships, oil tankers and other logistics support ships as well as combat ships.
Modern navy combat ships are generally divided into seven main categories: aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines, and amphibious assault ships. There are also support and auxiliary ships, including the oiler, minesweeper, patrol boat, hydrographic and oceanographic survey ship and tender. During the age of sail, the ship categories were divided into the ship of the line, frigate, and sloop-of-war.
Naval ship names are typically prefixed by an abbreviation indicating the national navy in which they serve. For a list of the prefixes used with ship names (HMS, USS, LÉ, etc.) see ship prefix.
Today ships are significantly faster than in years past, thanks to much improved propulsion systems. Also, the efficiency of the engines has improved, in terms of fuel, and of how many sailors it takes to operate them. In World War II, ships needed to refuel very often. However, today ships can go on very long journeys without refueling. Also, in World War II, the engine room needed about a dozen sailors to work the many engines, however, today, only about 4–5 are needed (depending on the class of the ship). Today, naval strike groups on longer missions are always followed by a range of support and replenishment ships supplying them with anything from fuel and munitions, to medical treatment and postal services. This allows strike groups and combat ships to remain at sea for several months at a time.
The term "boat" refers to small craft limited in their use by size and usually not capable of making lengthy independent voyages at sea. The old navy adage to differentiate between ships and boats is that boats are capable of being carried by ships. (Submarines by this rule are ships rather than boats, but are customarily referred to as boats reflecting their previous smaller size.)
Navies use many types of boat, ranging from 9-foot (2.7 m) dinghies to 135-foot (41 m) landing craft. They are powered by either diesel engines, out-board gasoline engines, or waterjets. Most boats are built of aluminum, fiberglass, or steel. Rigid-hulled inflatable boats are also used.
Patrol boats are used for patrols of coastal areas, lakes and large rivers.
Landing craft are designed to carry troops, vehicles, or cargo from ship to shore under combat conditions, to unload, to withdraw from the beach, and to return to the ship. They are rugged, with powerful engines, and usually armed. There are many types in today's navies including hovercraft. They will typically have a power-operated bow ramp, a cargo well and after structures that house engine rooms, pilot houses, and stowage compartments. These boats are sometimes carried by larger ships.
Special operations craft are high-speed craft used for insertion and extraction of special forces personnel and some may be transportable (and deployed) by air.
Boats used in non-combat roles include lifeboats, mail boats, line handling boats, buoy boats, aircraft rescue boats, torpedo retrievers, explosive ordnance disposal craft, utility boats, dive boats, targets, and work boats. Boats are also used for survey work, tending divers, and minesweeping operations. Boats for carrying cargo and personnel are sometimes known as launches, gigs, barges or shore party boats.
Naval forces are typically arranged into units based on the number of ships included, a single ship being the smallest operational unit. Ships may be combined into squadrons or flotillas, which may be formed into fleets. The largest unit size may be the whole Navy or Admiralty.
A task force can be assembled using ships from different fleets for an operational task.
Despite their acceptance in many areas of naval service, female sailors were not permitted to serve on board U.S. submarines until the U.S. Navy lifted the ban in April 2010.The major reasons historically cited by the U.S. Navy were the extended duty tours and close conditions which afford almost no privacy. The United Kingdom's Royal Navy has had similar restrictions. Australia, Canada, Norway, and Spain previously opened submarine service to women sailors.
A navy will typically have two sets of ranks, one for enlisted personnel and one for officers.
Typical ranks for commissioned officers include the following, in ascending order (Commonwealth ranks are listed first on each line; USA ranks are listed second in those instances where they differ from Commonwealth ranks):
"Flag officers" include any rank that includes the word "admiral" (or commodore in services other than the US Navy), and are generally in command of a battle group, strike group or similar flotilla of ships, rather than a single ship or aspect of a ship. However, commodores can also be temporary or honorary positions. For example, during World War II, a Navy captain was assigned duty as a convoy commodore, which meant that he was still a captain, but in charge of all the merchant vessels in the convoy.
The most senior rank employed by a navy will tend to vary depending on the size of the navy and whether it is wartime or peacetime, for example, few people have ever held the rank of Fleet Admiral in the U.S. Navy, the chief of the Royal Australian Navy holds the rank of Vice Admiral, and the chief of the Irish Naval Service holds the rank of Commodore.
Naval infantry, commonly known as marines, are a category of infantry that form part of a state's naval forces and perform roles on land and at sea, including amphibious operations, as well as other, naval roles. They also perform other tasks, including land warfare, separate from naval operations.
During the era of the Roman empire, naval forces included marine legionaries for maritime boarding actions. These were troops primarily trained in land warfare, and did not need to be skilled at handling a ship. Much later during the age of sail, a component of marines served a similar role, being ship-borne soldiers who were used either during boarding actions, as sharp-shooters, or in raids along shorelines.
The Spanish Infantería de Marina was formed in 1537, making it the oldest, current marine force in the world. The British Royal Marines combine being both a ship-based force and also being specially trained in commando-style operations and tactics, operating in some cases separately from the rest of the Royal Navy. The Royal Marines also have their own special forces unit.
In the majority of countries, the marine force is an integral part of the navy but there are variations such as the French Troupes de marine which is actually part of the French Army. The United States Marine Corps is a separate armed service within the United States Department of the Navy, with its own leadership structure.
Naval aviation is the application of military air power by navies, whether from warships that embark aircraft, or land bases.
In World War I several navies used floatplanes and flying boats - mainly for scouting. By World War II, aircraft carriers could carry bomber aircraft capable of attacking naval and land targets, as well as fighter aircraft for defence. Since World War II helicopters have been embarked on smaller ships in roles such as anti-submarine warfare and transport. Some navies have also operated land-based aircraft in roles such as maritime patrol and training.
Naval aviation forces primarily perform naval roles at sea. However, they are also used in a variety of other roles.
A carrier battle group (CVBG) is a naval fleet consisting of an aircraft carrier capital ship and its large number of escorts, together defining the group.
The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use a hull classification symbol to identify their ships by type and by individual ship within a type. The system is analogous to the pennant number system that the Royal Navy and other European and Commonwealth navies use.
The Kriegsmarine was the navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It superseded the Imperial German Navy of the German Empire (1871–1918) and the inter-war Reichsmarine (1919–1935) of the Weimar Republic. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches, along with the Heer and the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces from 1933 to 1945.
The People's Liberation Army Navy, also known as the Chinese Navy, PLA Navy or PLAN, is the naval warfare branch of the People's Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and, by default, the national armed forces of China. The PLAN traces its lineage to naval units fighting during the Chinese Civil War and was established on 23 April 1949. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the Soviet Union provided assistance to the PLAN in the form of naval advisers and export of equipment and technology. Until the late 1980s, the PLAN was largely a riverine and littoral force. However, by the 1990s, following the fall of the Soviet Union and a shift towards a more forward-oriented foreign and security policy, the leaders of the Chinese military were freed from worrying over land border disputes. Having traditionally been subordinated to the PLA Ground Force, PLAN leaders were able to advocate for a renewed attention towards the seas.
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish 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, and it is, consequently, known as the Senior Service.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the principal naval force of Australia, a part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force. The Navy is commanded by the Chief of Navy (CN), who is subordinate to the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) who commands the ADF; the current CN is Vice Admiral Michael Noonan. The CN is also directly responsible to the Minister of Defence, with the Department of Defence administering the ADF and the Navy.
The Spanish Navy is the maritime branch of the Spanish Armed Forces and one of the oldest active naval forces in the world. The Spanish navy was responsible for a number of major historic achievements in navigation, the most famous being the voyages of Christopher Columbus to America and the first global circumnavigation by Magellan and Elcano. For several centuries, it played a crucial logistical role in the expansion and consolidation of the Spanish Empire, and defended a vast trade network across the Atlantic Ocean between the Americas and Europe, and the Manila Galleon across the Pacific Ocean between Manila and the Americas.
Naval warfare is human combat in and on the sea, the ocean, or any other battlespace involving a major body of water such as a large lake or wide river.
A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuverable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, which carries cargo, a warship typically carries only weapons, ammunition and supplies for its crew. Warships usually belong to a navy, though they have also been operated by individuals, cooperatives and corporations.
The Seventh Fleet is a numbered fleet of the United States Navy. It is headquartered at U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is part of the United States Pacific Fleet. At present, it is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with 60 to 70 ships, 300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy, Marine Corps personnel, and Coast Guard support personnel. Its principal responsibilities are to provide joint command in natural disaster or military operations and operational command of all US naval forces in the region.
The French Navy, informally La Royale, is the maritime arm of the French Armed Forces and one of the five military service branches of France. It is among the largest and most powerful naval forces in the world, ranking seventh in combined fleet tonnage and fifth in number of naval vessels. The French Navy is one of eight currently operating fixed-wing aircraft carriers, with its flagship Charles de Gaulle being the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the U.S. Navy, and the only non-American vessel to use catapults to launch aircraft.
The Russian Navy is the naval arm of the Russian Armed Forces. It has existed in various forms since 1696, the present iteration of which was formed in January 1992 when it succeeded the Navy of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The Soviet Navy was the naval warfare uniform service branch of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy made up a large part of the Soviet Union's strategic planning in the event of a conflict with the opposing superpower, the United States, during the cold war period between the two countries. The influence of the Soviet Navy played a large role in the events involving the Cold War (1945-1991), as the majority of conflicts centred around the American-led NATO alliance in western Europe or power projection to maintain its sphere of influence in eastern Europe.
Naval aviation is the application of military air power by navies, whether from warships that embark aircraft, or land bases.
The names of commissioned ships of the United States Navy all start with USS, for United States Ship. Non-commissioned, primarily civilian-manned vessels of the U.S. Navy under the Military Sealift Command have names that begin with USNS, standing for United States Naval Ship. A letter-based hull classification symbol is used to designate a vessel's type. The names of ships are selected by the Secretary of the Navy. The names are those of states, cities, towns, important persons, important locations, famous battles, fish, and ideals. Usually, different types of ships have names originated from different types of sources.
The Portuguese Navy is the naval branch of the Portuguese Armed Forces which, in cooperation and integrated with the other branches of the Portuguese military, is charged with the military defense of Portugal.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, also simply known as the Japanese Navy, is the maritime warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, tasked with the naval defense of Japan. The JMSDF was formed following the dissolution of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) after World War II. The JMSDF has a fleet of 154 ships and 346 aircraft and consists of approximately 45,800 personnel. Its main tasks are to maintain control of the nation's sea lanes and to patrol territorial waters. It also participates in UN-led peacekeeping operations (PKOs) and Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIOs).
Naval tactics and doctrine is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemy ship or fleet in battle at sea during naval warfare, the naval equivalent of military tactics on land.
The United States Navy (USN) is the maritime service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the eight uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most powerful navy in the world, with the estimated tonnage of its active battle fleet alone exceeding the next 13 navies combined, including 11 U.S. allies or partner nations as of 2015. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, two new carriers under construction, and five other carriers planned. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019.
In the beginning of World War II the Royal Navy was the strongest navy in the world, with the largest number of warships built and with naval bases across the globe. Totalling over 15 battleships and battlecruisers, 7 aircraft carriers, 66 cruisers, 164 destroyers and 66 submarines. With a massive merchant navy, about a third of the world total, it also dominated shipping. The Royal Navy fought in every theatre from the Atlantic, Mediterranean, freezing Northern routes to Russia and the Pacific ocean.
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