WARFARE EVOLUTION BLOG: Submarines were harder to count than aircraft carriers in my previous blog. According to scattered web information, there are about 533 submarines in the oceans today, operated by 40 countries. But that number moves around, mostly because (1) there are a number of new submarines coming into service and (2) it’s hard to say how many antiquated Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean submarines are still operational.
China launched a new Jin-class missile submarine and India launched a new Scorpene-class attack submarine in January 2017. Russia launched their new Yasen-Class attack submarine in April.
There are about 120 nuclear submarines in the oceans according to the World Nuclear Association, operated by six countries: U.S., Russia, China, France, India, and UK. Most submarines in the total are diesel-electric powered (about 353). All U.S. submarines are nuclear-powered.
There are 60 newer submarines operating today with AIP (air-independent propulsion) systems, according to reports. These submarines use a Sterling-cycle engine, that mixes liquid oxygen with diesel fuel or uses oxygen-hydrogen fuel cells to drive electric generators. Regular diesel submarines can only stay down for a few hours before they have to surface, run their engines, and charge their batteries. AIP submarines can stay down for weeks without surfacing. Nuclear submarines can stay down for months. Anytime a submarine surfaces or raises a breathing snorkel to run their diesels, they risk being detected by our ASW (anti-submarine warfare) systems. Also, nuclear submarines can travel faster submerged that diesel or AIP subs. Our nuclear-powered attack submarines can travel more than 33 miles per hour. Their top speed is classified, so it can probably hit 40 miles per hour underwater.
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Submarines are divided into attack, ballistic missile, and cruise missile versions. They can be classified by size…