The US currently cannot match the number of submarines of all its potential enemies. China has 68 to 73 and will likely build to 80-90 submarines. This “submarine gap” is being used as a justification to spend tens of billions of dollar for more US submarines.
During the cold war, the US had about 130 submarines to the 260 Soviet submarines. This did not count a lot of submarines that China had. China had the current North Korea large number of crappy submarines. No one during the Cold war thought the US had to match the USSR sub for sub or tank for tank.
The Chinese submarines are getting closer to matching US submarines but only 12 are nuclear submarines. Russia has 63 submarines. Most of Russia’s submarines were old and not in good condition. Russia is part way through a modernization effort. North Korea has a lot of crappy submarines.
Currently most of China’s submarines are in the $300-800 million price range. The US is paying almost $3 billion for Virginia Attack submarines and $10 billion for new Columbia ballistic missile submarines.
The US NATO allies and Japan have a combined few dozen submarines but again most are not top notch or in great condition.
The US had between 118 and 137 submarines from 1980-1990. The US had 36-41 ballistic missile submarines. THe US has 78-97 attack submarines.
The USSR had about double with 262 submarines.
The US Navy expect with current average production rates that the combined SSN and SSGN force could decline to just 41 by 2029. This 25-vessel short of a study that says the US “needs” 66 subs.
Soviet submarine fleet in 1990
63 ballistic missile submarines
6 Project 941 (Typhoon-class) submarine
40 Project 667B (Delta-class) submarine
12 Project 667A (Yankee-class) submarine
5 Project 658 (Hotel-class) submarine
72 cruise missile submarines
6 Oscar-class submarine
6 Yankee Notch submarine
14 Charlie-class submarine
30 Echo-class submarine
16 Juliett-class submarine
64 nuclear attack submarines
5 Akula-class submarine
2 Sierra-class submarine
1 Alfa-class submarine
46 Victor-class submarine
6 November-class submarine
3 Yankee SSN submarine
63 conventional attack submarines
18 Kilo-class submarine
20 Tango-class submarine
25 Foxtrot-class submarine
Russia, China, US submarines today
Russia still has a total of 63 submarines. Most are not in good condition. Russia has been replacing and modernizing them.
The US has 66 nuclear submarines
Ohio class (18 in commission) – 14 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), 4 guided missile submarines (SSGNs)
Virginia class (11 in commission, 5 under construction, 2 on order) – fast attack submarines
Seawolf class (3 in commission) – attack submarines
Los Angeles class (34 in commission, 2 in reserve) – attack submarines
China’s submarines are now mostly relatively larger new diesel submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP). AIP lets a diesel submarine get closer to matching the a nuclear submarine wit the time it can remain underwater.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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