Which is the best attack submarine in the world? Which is the greatest and deadliest modern attack submarine and why? Our Top 5 analysis is based on the combined score of offensive weapons, stealthiness, and some other features.
The main mission for this type of boats is to engage hostile submarines and ships. It must have good sonar in order to detect enemy submarines. Also it is extremely important for these boats to approach enemy boats and warships undetected. After engagement it is even more important to leave the area undetected by hostile anti-submarine ships and maritime patrol aircraft. Some of the latest attack submarines can launch cruise missiles against ships and land targets. So stealthiness and armament are the main factors deciding which attack submarine is the best.
This list only includes nuclear-powered attack submarines, that are currently in service around the world. Boats that are still being developed or are under construction are not present here.
Currently top 5 attack submarines in the world are these:
Nr.1 Seawolf class (USA)
The boats of the Seawolf class are the most advanced but also the most expensive hunter-killer submarines in the world. These submarines were intended to restore the technological edge which the US Navy had enjoyed over the Soviets from 1945 until the mid 1980s, when espionage and the cynical trading practices of some US allies somewhat eroded it.
The Seawolf class boats were intended to seek and destroy the latest Soviet ballistic missile submarines, such as Typhoon class, and latest attack submarines such as Akula class.
Initially 12 boats of the class were planned. However these advanced submarines were too pricey even for the United States to build and maintain on the post-Cold War era budget. Eventually production was stopped with only three Seawolf class submarines built. All of these boats are currently in service. The US Navy switched to much cheaper design of Virginia class attack submarines.
The Seawolf class submarines are arguably the quietest submarines in the world ever constructed. It is exceptionally quiet even at high speeds. Most submarines need to keep their speed down to as little as 5 knots to avoid detection by passive sonar arrays, while the Seawolf class are credited with being able to cruise at 20 kots and still be impossible to locate. A Seawolf at 25 knots makes less noise than an older Los Angeles class submarine tied up alongside the pier.
These boats can operate at greater depths than existing US submarines and can also operate under the polar ice cap. Also these are faster than most other submarines.
These submarines have eight 660 mm torpedo tubes. These tubes are used to launched Mk.48 torpedoes and Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Torpedo tubes are also used to launch Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles with a range of 1 700 km. A mix of 50 torpedoes, Sub Harpoons and Tomahawks can be carried.
Nr.2 Virginia class (USA)
The US Navy’s Virginia class nuclear-powered attack submarines are successors to the Los Angeles class boats. The Virginia class was designed as smaller, less expensive and more versatile alternative to the advanced but extremely expensive Seawolf class. A total of 30 Virginia class nuclear-powered attack submarines are planned.
The Virginia class submarines incorporate newly designed anechoic coating, isolated deck structures and new design of propulsor to achieve low acoustic signature. It is claimed that noise level of the Virginia is equal to that of the Seawolf class.
The Virginia class submarines are fitted with 12 Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes. These are used to launch Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles with a range of 1 700 km. Also there are four 533 mm torpedo tubes. These are used to fire a total of 26 Mk.48 heavyweight torpedoes and Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
These boats can be also used for special operations. It is the first US submarine to employ a built-in Navy SEAL staging area allowing a team of 9 men to enter and leave the submarine.
Nr.3 Astute class (United Kingdom)
The first Astute class nuclear-powered attack submarine was commissioned with the Royal Navy in 2010. So far 7 boats of the class are planned. These will replace the older Swiftsure class attack submarines.
The Astute class boats are significantly stealthies and carry more weapons than the previous boats of Trafalgar class.
These attack submarines are fitted with six 533 mm torpedo tubes. These are used to launch Spearfish torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles. A mix of 36 missiles and torpedoes are carried.
The Tomahawk Block IV land attack cruise missiles have a range of 1 700 km and can target enemy ships as well as land targets.
Nr.4 Graney class (Russia)
The Project 885 Yasen (Western designation Graney class) is the latest Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine. The lead boat, Severodvinsk, was laid down in 1993 however construction was stopped due to funding problems. This boat was commissioned with the Russian Navy only in 2013. The second boat of the class was built to improved project. Currently at least 6 of these boats are planned to be commissioned. These will replace the older Akula class submarines.
Despite all improvements the Graney class boats are only slightly quieter than improved Akula class boats.
The Severodvinsk has 24 vertical launch tubes for various cruise missiles. These include P-800 Oniks (Western designation SS-N-26), which has a range of around 300 km.
Also there are eight 650 mm torpedo tubes. These can launch torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. It was reported that a mix of 30 torpedoes and anti-ship missiles are carried.
The Severodvinsk has 24 vertical launch tubes for various cruise missiles. Cruise missiles include the P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26), which has a range of about 300 km.
Nr.5 Sierra II class (Russia)
The Russian expensive Sierra I class boats succeeded the ill-fated Alfa class. Soon even more capable Sierra II class boats were commissioned. The lead Sierra II class boat was commissioned in 1990 and the second boat of the class followed in 1993. Only two Sierra II class boats were ever commissioned due to extremely high price. The third boat was laid down, but was never commissioned and eventually scrapped. The Russian Navy maintains these advanced submarines despite their high operating costs.
These boats have two light and strong titanium hulls. Soviet titanium technology was far in advance of the West, requiring fewer passes to achieve a successful weld, but the cost of the hulls limited the numbers built, despite advantages in depth and underwater speed.
These submarines can operate at great depths. Their operational depth is 520 meters, while maximum depth is 750 meters. Most other attack submarines, such as Russian Akula class or American Virginia class operate at depths of only around 250 meters. Even the most advanced American Seawolf class boats can not dive that deep.