In this article, we take a look at the 15 navies with the most submarines in the world. You can skip our detailed analysis on this critical naval vessel and head over directly to the 5 Navies with the Most Submarines in the World.
Assessing the strength of a military requires a thorough scrutiny of the sophistication of its weaponry. There is great emphasis on submarines in modern warfare due to the crucial role these submersible vessels play underwater in both covert operations and offensive roles against adversaries. These watercrafts are an integral component in the arsenal of leading naval forces across the world.
While the United States undisputedly has the most powerful military in the world, it surprisingly is not on top spot when it comes to the fleet size of submarines. This, however, does not imply any deficiency in the realm because most of its submarines are of premium quality, powered with nuclear technology in contrast to a majority of other countries that are in the race.
The Virginia class is the latest class of submarines operated by the United States Navy. The nuclear-powered attack submersible first joined the Navy in 1998. Designed by General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD)’s subsidiary, General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB), and Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (NYSE:HII), the Virginia class offers multiple capabilities to the Navy, such as reconnaissance, land attack, anti-shipping, and special operations. According to a Congressional Research Service report in April 2019, the Virginia class costs between $2.8 to $3.2 billion per unit.
Australia is likely to become the second country after the United States to operate the Virginia class of submarines, as the US Navy plans on selling the used nuclear submarines to Australia under the AUKUS pact in 2032 and 2035. The monetary aspects of the agreement are not known. Australia’s Babcock International, which provides infrastructure in Adelaide and Perth for nuclear powered submarines, has already entered into a strategic partnership with Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (NYSE:HII) to ‘provide critical capability requirements’ for the submarine program.
Another fast-attack, nuclear powered submarine operated by the US is the Seawolf class, which was developed during the 1980s to regain the Navy’s technological superiority over Soviet vessels. The submarine is nearly impossible to locate when it is cruising at 20 knots, and is ten times quicker than the Los Angeles class it succeeded. The Seawolf class was also built by General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD).
The US Navy is also working on Columbia-class, its upcoming nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, which is scheduled to enter service in 2031. The development work for the project started in October 2020, with General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD) being chosen as the primary contractor and design lead, while Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (NYSE:HII) serving as the primary contractor.
In 2020, it was reported that Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) would provide fleet support for the strategic weapon system Trident for the Columbia-class submarine program. The US Navy last year in September marked the successful test launch of Trident II D5 Life Extension Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) from the Pacific Ocean. Jerry Mamrol, the VP of Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)’s Fleet Ballistic Missiles, said on the occasion that his company was proud of the decades long partnership with the Navy, and looks forward to modernizing the missile for use in the Columbia-class of submarines. The D5 missile built by Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) is one of the most advanced ballistic missiles in the world, with a nominal range of 4,000 nautical miles. It is currently used by the UK’s Vanguard-class and the US’s Ohio-class of submarines.
Other prominent submarines currently in operation include the United Kingdom’s Astute-class, four of which are currently in service of the Royal Navy, and Russia’s Graney-class and Sierra II-class submarines, with the former being the country’s latest nuclear attack submarine that succeeded the Akula-class in 2013.
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Navies with the most submarines in the world are ranked in ascending order of the fleet size of their submarines. Data has been sourced from Global Firepower Index 2024 and the Nuclear Threat Institute (NTI). In cases where two or more countries had the same number of submarines, we outranked one over the other by analyzing the technological sophistication of their submarines.
If interested, you can also take a look at the 15 Most Powerful Navies in the World.
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Let’s now dive into the list of navies with the most submarines in the world.
According to the Nuclear Threat Institute (NTI), Pakistan’s fleet of eight submarines comprises three MG110 mini and five diesel-electric submarines. These include two Hashmat class submarines whose designs are based on French Agosta class submarines, three Khalid class submarines which are also known as Agosta-90B-class, and three Cosmos-class mini submarines designed by an Italian company.
Next on our list of navies with the most submarines in the world is Italy whose naval fleet consists of four Sauro-class and four Type 212A Todaro-class vessels. All eight of these are diesel-electric attack submarines. The Type 212A Todaro-class submarines also have air-independent propulsion enabled in them. The country has a large shipbuilding industry, with Fincantieri leading much of Italy’s naval constructions. In 2021, it was reported that Italy is also building two small submarines for Qatar, which is testament to the country’s naval export potential.
Four German-made, diesel electric S-44 submarines received between December 2016 and August 2021 as part of a $1.7 billion contract signed between Germany and Egypt in 2011 have bolstered Egypt’s naval strength. Prior to that, the only submarines the African nation had were four units of Chinese Type 033 Romeo-class – which are still operated by the Egyptian Navy.
France is among navies with the most submarines in the world. Its fleet size of nine submarines comprises five nuclear-powered submarines – Émeraude, Améthyste, Perle, Suffren, and Duguay-Trouin; and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines named Le Triomphant, Le Téméraire, Le Vigilant, and Le Terrible. The nuclear ballistic missile submarines are capable of carrying 16 M45 ballistic missiles and a TN-71 thermonuclear warhead.
11. United Kingdom
According to the UK government, the Royal Navy operates 10 submarines, of which, six are nuclear submarines, while four are ballistic nuclear submarines. It is one of only six countries to possess all nuclear submarines, as noted by the Daily Express. The UK’s Astute class is one of the most powerful submarines in the world, capable of carrying 36 torpedoes, mines, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and anti-ship Harpoon missiles.
Greece is one of the countries with the most submarines in the world, with a fleet size of 11 – all of which are diesel-electric attack submarines. Of these, five are air-independent propulsion enabled according to NTI. In December 2018, the Greek government approved two programs to purchase 36 torpedoes for its Papanikolis-class submarines. The Papanikolis class is among Greece’s finest classes, with the capacity to travel at a speed of 20 knots and be submerged under water for 50 days.
The Turkish Navy operates 12 submarines, which comprises three classes of four units each – Gür (Type 209T2/1400), Ay (Type 209/1200), and Preveze (Type 209T/1400). All of these are diesel-electric submarines. By 2027, Turkiye plans on operating six Reis-class of submarines, which will enhance the strength of the Turkish Navy due to their air independent propulsion capabilities.
Half-way through the list comes India, with 18 submarines in its fleet. These include sixteen diesel-electric submarines, and two nuclear-powered submarines – INS Arihant and INS Arighat. In 2019, Delhi signed a $3 billion deal with Russia for the lease of Akula-class nuclear submarines for a period of 10 years. Under the pact, the first delivery is expected in 2025.
Next up is Iran, whose naval fleet of 19 submarines comprises fifteen Ghadir-class and Nahang-class of mini submarines, which possess tubes for firing torpedoes and anti-cruise missiles. The country also operates four diesel-electric submarines – one of these is locally built, while three were received from Russia.
6. South Korea
South Korea’s navy operates 22 submarines, the largest of which is the Dosan Ahn Changho-class, with a displacement of more than 3,000 tonnes. It borrowed its designs from two earlier developed classes – Son Won-Il and Jang Bogo, which were versions of Germany’s Type 209 and 214 diesel-electric submarines.
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Disclosure: None. 15 Navies with the Most Submarines in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.