How would you rate the most powerful submarines in the world? Is it by how many warheads they carry, how silent they travel underwater, or how fast they move?
Power means dominance, and the most powerful submarines have domineering features. While weaponry is a crucial aspect of their strength, stealth and speed are equally important. These underwater crafts, as you will see, can move undetected.
You will learn which submarines have the most advanced specifications quickly. So, in a New York minute, let us explore the most powerful submarines in the world.
1. The Seawolf Class
Our list of the most powerful submarines in the world begins with the Seawolf Class. Currently operated by the United States Navy, this beast outranks others in several areas.
You can already tell its speed, being a nuclear-powered submarine. It can go as fast as 25 knots while maintaining its stealth. That is an impressive feat for an underwater craft.
It is not only crucial to outrun enemy vessels but also essential to remain undetected. The Seawolf Class does both effortlessly, making it the leader among the most powerful submarines in the world.
The Seawolf Class might be a powerful sea beast, but it is pricey, costing about $3 billion for a single unit. Due to cost constraints, the United States Navy currently operates three of them, despite an initial plan for twelve.
Baring its number aside, this submarine is a killing machine. It effortlessly stands toe-to-toe and outranks the Soviet Typhoon and Akula class. The HY-100 steel body can withstand pressures at lower depths.
That makes it capable of sailing at greater depths to avoid detection while moving with incredible speed. The Seawolf Class submarines can carry 50 UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles for sea and land attacks.
They can also carry out shallow water operations with the advanced combat system. Regarding propulsion, a single S6W nuclear reactor powers the sea monster with about 45,000 hp.
With such stats, it is not hard to see why the Seawolf Class leads among the most powerful submarines in the world. Notwithstanding, let us see its smaller and less expensive sibling, the Virginia Class.
2. The Virginia Class
The United States Navy opted for the much cheaper Virginia Class due to the high cost of the Seawolf Class. They are not only affordable but also smaller and fast-attack sub-sea crafts.
The Virginia Class came to fulfill the U.S.’s need to maintain its lead among the most powerful submarines in the world. With the latest stealth, weaponry, and intelligence-gathering capabilities, it is the U.S. Navy’s sweet spot.
Each submarine in this class will make about fifteen deployments within a 33-year service cycle. Using commercial off-the-shelf components, designers could keep costs down to $1.8 billion.
Currently, the United States Navy has commissioned 19 Virginia Class submarines. They will replace the aging Los Angeles Class as they get decommissioned from active service.
Despite being a low-cost alternative, if you regard $1.8 billion as low, the Virginia Class is quite capable. They can carry out open-ocean and near-shore operations, including battling other submarines.
Let us look at some specifications that make this class among the most powerful submarines in the world. These sea beasts can carry 40 weapons, including 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The power comes from an S9G nuclear reactor with fuel from BWX Technologies. An output of 40,000 hp allows the Virginia Class to reach speeds above 25 knots.
Although the test depth is 800 ft, these attack monsters can reach up to 1,600 ft. The crew strength is also impressive at 14 officers and 120 enlisted.
So far, American submarines have outshined the competition in power, stealth, and speed. Let us see how other countries stack up on this sought-after list.
3. The Astute Class
The Astute Class are the largest and most powerful submarines in the Royal Navy’s fleet. They bring versatility like none other with industry-leading sensors and weaponry.
The Astute Class can carry 38 weapons, including Spearfish heavy torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles. The latter can hit targets at 1,000 miles, although the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense plans to replace them with longer-range missiles.
These newer missiles will have an extended range and improved target selection and in-flight communication.
A much better Astute Combat Management System replaces the older Submarine Command System used on classes in the British Navy’s fleet.
Without hiccups, the crew can view information from the submarine’s sensors on the command consoles. Other high-tech components include the Atlas Hydrographic DESO 25 high-precision echo sounders and CM010 non-hull penetrating optronic masts.
The Royal Navy currently operates four Astute Class, with two under construction. With a Rolls-Royce PWR2 (Core H) pressurized water reactor, these boats can go 25 years without refueling.
The engine also has a pump-jet propulsor. Although initially developed for the Vanguard Class submarines, these engines are seeing action with the Astute Class.
This flagship British Class can attain a top speed of 30 knots despite an initial trial failure. With such rates, they are undoubtedly among the most powerful submarines in the world.
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defense has already awarded contracts for a new class, with a 2040 expected arrival date. The sub-sea crafts will replace the current Astute Class.
4. Graney Class
The Graney Class or Project Yasen is Russia’s new bid to dominate the seas and world of underwater warfare. These newer submarines replace the aging yet formidable Akula and Alfa Class.
With state-of-the-art design, the Yasen Class, although presumed, carries several missiles, including land attack, anti-ship, and anti-submarine.
The missile types include P-800 Oniks SLCM and several variants of the Kalibir, including 3M54K and 3M54K2.
Each submarine can carry up to 32 Kalibr and 24 Oniks, making it lethal and among the most powerful submarines in the world. The torpedo room could give way for even more missiles.
Aside from weapons, the Graney Class is also a technology giant. It is the first Russian submarine to carry spherical sonar and a fourth-generation nuclear reactor.
The reactor can power the submarine for 25 to 30 years without refueling. Such impressive stats are bound to induce fear in anyone on the wrong side.
5. Sierra II Class
The Sierra II Class is another Soviet sub-sea vessel on our list of the most powerful submarines in the world. You may see it go by Project 945A Kondor and Project 945 Barrakuda.
Both vessels in this class are nuclear-powered attack submarines currently serving the Russian Navy. Its lightweight yet strong titanium pressure hull allows it to dive deeper while reducing its radiated noise and increasing resistance to torpedoes.
A single OK-650 pressurized water reactor powers this lethal attack submarine. The core purpose of its development was to have a vessel that could identify U.S. nuclear submarines. As a result, its speed and dive depth is greater than that of U.S. vessels.
6. Akula Class
We mentioned earlier how this submarine’s lethality led to the Seawolf Class’s development. It often goes by the name Project 971 Shchuka-B and has four sub-classes.
Although it is a fourth-generation nuclear-powered sub-sea craft, its lethality remains deadly, even after two decades in service. There are about fifteen active submarines in this class, with the most recently commissioned in 2001.
The Akula Class shook the intelligence world, as no one expected the Soviet Union to be capable of such. It uses a double hull system with a light outer hull and an inner pressure hull.
This design allows more freedom in shaping the external hull, resulting in greater buoyancy.
7. Soryu Class
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force commissioned this submarine Class into service in 2009. It is a diesel-electric attack, and they sometimes go by the name 16SS.
The Soryu Class evolved from the Oyashio Class with a distinguishable combination of diving planes and rudders in an X-shaped stern. It currently has the most significant displacement among the post-war Japanese fleet.
This Class prides itself on being the first lithium-ion battery submarine in the world and the first in the Japanese fleet to use an air-independent propulsion system. Kawasaki Heavy Industries built the Kockums Naval Solutions Stirling engines powering it.
One lethal advantage the Soryu Class has is its ability to remain submerged for extended periods. That makes it a deadly foe among the most powerful submarines in the world.
The Soryu Class is not cheap either, as it cost Japan $540 million to build the sixth vessel in the class.
8. Ohio Class
Submarines that make up the Ohio Class of nuclear-powered vessels include 14 ballistic missile (SSBN) and four cruise missile (SSGN) vessels. When at sea, they displace 18,750 tons, making them the largest in the U.S. Naval fleet.
They rank third in the world in terms of size, behind Russia’s Typhoon Class and the Borei Class. However, they carry more missiles, including 24 Trident II, against 16 in the Borei Class and 20 in the Typhoon Class.
The Ohio Class subs replaced the Benjamin Franklin and Lafayette Class subs and are part of the U.S. nuclear-deterrent triad. It stands alongside the U.S. Air Force’s strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Fourteen of the Ohio Class SSBNs carry half of the strategic thermonuclear warheads. Although these Trident missiles have no preset target, the United States Strategic Command can easily designate one for them.
The constant radio communications links give the Ohio Class an uncanny lethality among the most powerful submarines in the world. They are vessels not to be trifled with, given the onboard weaponry.
The most powerful submarines in the world can be pretty expensive to build. Take the Seawolf Class, for instance. A single unit costs about 3 billion dollars, enough to make five Soryu submarines.
They tend to have nuclear-powered engines, although Japan’s Soryu Class uses a diesel-electric engine. Nuclear power allows these submarines to roam the seas for years without refueling.
A combination of power, design and weapons systems gives these submarines their lethality. As a result, the most powerful subs in the world tend to have the latest in these areas, including advanced communication systems.