13 of the Biggest Submarines in the World

Biggest Submarines in the World
Photo by Darren Halstead

The biggest submarines in the world are among the fascinating submarines ever built. And some of them remain on active duty today. 

However, here’s our list of the thirteen biggest submarines in the world, along with notes about their design and details about their service history.

1. Ohio Class

The Ohio class is a class of nuclear-powered submarines used by the United States Navy. The navy has 18 Ohio-class submarines, 14 armed with Trident II D-5 missiles, and four used as SSGNs, carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles. 

However, the Ohio class was designed for long-range, high-endurance missions. And can stay submerged for up to three months at a time. With a displacement of over 18,000 tons, the Ohio class is one of the largest submarines ever built. 

Also, they are some of the most heavily armed submarines in the world, carrying up to 24 Trident II D-5 missiles each. The armament also includes four 53cm Mark 48 torpedo tubes.

2. Delta IV Class

The Delta IV class is a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) produced by Russia. It is the largest submarine ever built, with 574 feet (175 meters) and a displacement of 48,000 tons.

However, Delta IVs are equipped with 16 ICBMs, each with a range of 7,456 miles (12,000 kilometers). The first Delta IV was launched in 1986, and the class is still in service today.

Moreso, the power plant includes two pressurized water-cooled reactors, which can produce 80 megawatts of electric power. Up to 75 megawatts may be transferred to three electric motors on the propeller shafts.

Also, Delta IV submarines have 17 tubes for launching torpedoes and cruise missiles. Six 533 mm torpedo tubes and 11 650 mm torpedo tubes.

3. Borei Class

The Borei Class is a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines operated by the Russian Navy. The class is intended to replace the Delta III and Typhoon classes currently in service. The lead submarine of the class, Yuri Dolgorukiy, was commissioned in 2013. 

However, as of 2019, seven Borei Class submarines have been built, with four more under construction. In total, there are 12 planned for the class. 

And these are Severodvinsk (commissioned in 2017), Kazan (under construction), and Ulyanovsk (under construction). Also, Krasnoyarsk (under construction), Perm (under construction), and Tver (under construction). All twelve are expected to be completed before 2020. 

Moreso, it was designed by Rubin Design Bureau and constructed for $770m.  The 14,400-tonne vessel is 186 meters long and has a beam of 13 meters. Its crew consists of 16 officers and 106 sailors. 

Also, like other ballistic missile submarines, it carries up to 16 missiles with six masts. It also features anechoic tiles that reduce its radar signature. And an air-independent propulsion system allows it to remain submerged for up to three weeks without surfacing.

4. Typhoon Class

The Typhoon Class is a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) operated by the Russian Navy.

The class is among the biggest submarines in the world ever built, displacing 48,000 tonnes. The first vessel of the class, Dmitry Donskoy, was commissioned in 1981. 

And the last, Vladimir Monomakh, was commissioned in 1990. All seven boats were built at the Severodvinsk shipyard.

Multiple pressure hulls make the Typhoon wider than any other submarine. However, the maximum diving depth is 1,650 meters (5,413 feet).

Missile tubes are located on the deck, occupying space that could otherwise be used for living quarters. One missile tube can carry 16 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to ten nuclear warheads.

5. Akula II Class

The Akula II class is a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine. These behemoths are the biggest submarines in the world ever built, measuring 574 feet long. They displace a whopping 48,000 tons when submerged and can travel at speeds of up to 35 knots.

However, Akula II class subs are armed with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and mines. Making them a fearsome force to be reckoned with.

Also, multiple pressure hulls make this class wider than any other current submarine. A single torpedo tube can launch one of the 24 P-700 Granit cruise missiles equipped.

But, it also has two multipurpose launchers that fire cruise missiles and SSN-19 ASW rockets (anti-submarine weapons). When you’re talking about something as big as this sub, it’s hard to keep track of all its features!

6. Astute Class

The Astute class is a class of nuclear-powered fleet submarines (SSBN) in service with the Royal Navy. The class was designed by GEC-Marconi/VSEL’s now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions. 

And is one of the biggest submarines in the world ever built for the Royal Navy. The first boat of the class, HMS Astute, was commissioned on 8 August 2010. These are the biggest submarines in the world ever built for the Royal Navy.

However, the following features made it the largest submarine service it can produce 18 megawatts of electricity while submerged. There are two 533mm torpedo tubes and four UGM-84 Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

A total of 10 torpedoes can be stored internally. But, Astute has six bow-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes developed from those found on the Trafalgar Class SSN.

7. Balao Class

The Balao class was a successful design of the United States Navy submarine used during World War II. With 120 units completed, the largest class of submarines in the United States Navy. The Balao-class boats were very similar to the preceding Tangaroa class. 

Nevertheless, all but 12 were built with electric drive, using General Electric main motors. Two dozen Balao-class submarines launched 16-inch (406 mm) torpedoes, the heaviest torpedo used by any navy during World War II.

8. Seawolf Class

The Seawolf class is a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSN) in service with the United States Navy.

The class was designed for advanced underwater warfare and to replace the Los Angeles-class submarines. The lead boat of the class, USS Seawolf (SSN-21), was commissioned in 1997. 

However, in 2020, only three boats of this class are active: USS Seawolf, USS Connecticut (SSN-22), and USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23).

They are designed to seek out and destroy enemy surface ships and submarines and deliver special operations forces ashore.

Also, support battle group operations, carry out intelligence gathering missions, and engage in mine laying or sweeping mine missions. And establish the safe passage of other vessels through potentially dangerous waters.

9. North Korean GORAE-class submarine

The North Korean GORAE-class submarine is one of the biggest submarines in the world. It is a Type 209 submarine and was launched in 2010. The submarine has a length of 171 meters (561 feet) and a beam of 23 meters (75 feet). 

And a displacement of 18,200 tons. It is powered by a pressurized water reactor and can carry up to 26 torpedoes. It has the following qualities: 18,200-tonne displacement carries up to 26 torpedoes, length of 171 meters, and breadth of 23 meters.

Moreso, with hull thickness of 6mm, surfaced speed of 25 knots, a submerged speed of 20 knots, a crew of 40 men. And ranges 10,000 nautical miles at 12 knots, has a service life of 30 years, and freeboard 12 meters.

10. Triomphant Class, France

The Triomphant class is a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) operated by the French Navy. The class includes four boats, all built between 1986 and 1997. They are currently the biggest submarines in the world in service in any navy. 

However, all four class boats are armed with 16 M45 SLBMs, capable of carrying up to 48 missiles. The boats are also equipped with torpedoes for self-defense. 

Therefore, the Triomphant class was designed to replace the older Redoutable-class SSBNs, which were smaller and less capable. The first boat of the class, Triomphant, was commissioned in 1997.

11. Vanguard Class, UK

The Vanguard class is a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) operated by the Royal Navy. The class was introduced in 1994 and included four boats: Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant, and Vengeance.

These are some of the biggest submarines in the world, measuring over 150 meters in length and weighing over 16,000 tons. 

Also, they are some of the most advanced, equipped with state-of-the-art sonar and communications systems.

Furthermore, it is equipped with Trident II D5 missiles that carry up to eight warheads. The missiles can be launched from 400 miles at targets on land. Or sea or close to an enemy’s coastline. 

While these subs were developed primarily for use as strategic weapons platforms. They have seen service protecting US naval vessels from submarine attacks during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in maritime security operations off Somalia since 2003.

12. Yasen/Graney Class, Russia

The Yasen/Graney class is a Russian nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine. The class is an evolutionary development of the Akula class, also known as the Severodvinsk class. As of 2016, only two boats of this class have been completed: Severodvinsk and Kazan.

However, the following features that made it the biggest are the overall length of 252 m (827 ft). And a beam of 32 m (105 ft), a draft at 15.5 m (50 ft) maximum depth of 600 m (2,000 ft). It can accommodate 190 crew members.

Moreso, it has eight torpedo tubes that launch torpedoes or surface-to-surface missiles. Anti-ship missiles are used for surface targets. The Yasen/Graney class has a more powerful reactor than the other classes. 

Also, these submarines can operate in much deeper water than older classes due to their enhanced abilities. Such as faster speeds and higher operating depths.

13. Sierra Class, Russia

The Sierra class is a submarine class used by the Russian Navy. The class is composed of seven submarines, all of which were built between 2003 and 2012.

These are some of the biggest submarines in the world, measuring over 500 feet in length and weighing over 20,000 tons.

However, with a crew of over 100 sailors, these behemoths can stay submerged for months at a time. It has the following features -displacement: 24,300 tonnes, length: 176 meters, speed: 17 knots (31 km/h), crew complement: 130 sailors.

Conclusion

The United States Navy’s Ohio-class submarines are the biggest submarines in the world ever built. Measuring over 560 feet long and weighs over 18,000 tons. These behemoths can carry up to 24 Trident II nuclear missiles and have a crew of over 150 sailors.

However, Russia’s Typhoon-class submarine is the second biggest submarine in the world, measuring 533 feet long and weighing 16,000 tons.

This submarine class was designed for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare and can carry up to 20 torpedoes.

China’s Type 094 submarine is the third largest, measuring 490 feet long and weighing 10,000 tons. This submarine class is designed for nuclear deterrence and can carry up to 12 JL-2 nuclear missiles.

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