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Top 10 Attack Submarines


   Which is the best attack submarine in the world? Which is the greatest and deadliest modern attack submarine and why? Our Top 10 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 10 attack submarines in the world are these:


Best submarines

Nr.1 Seawolf class (USA)



Entered service: 1997

Diving depth: 487 m

Torpedo tubes: 8x660-mm

Weapons: Mk.48 torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles


   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 the Typhoon class and attack submarines such as the 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.



Most advanced submarine

Nr.2 Virginia class (USA)



Entered service: 2004

Diving depth: over 250 m

Vertical launched tubes: 12

Torpedo tubes: 4x533-mm

Weapons: Mk.48 torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles.


   The US Navy's Virginia class nuclear-powered attack submarine is as a successor to the Los Angeles class boats. It was designed as a smaller, cheaper and more versatile alternative to the advanced but extremely expensive Seawolf class. A total of 30 of 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 launched 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.  



Top 10 attack submarines

Nr.3 Astute class (United Kingdom)



Entered service: 2010

Diving depth: over 150 m

Torpedo tubes: 6x533-mm

Weapons: Spearfish torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles.


   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 stealthier 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.



Top ten attack submarines

Nr.4 Graney class (Russia)



Entered service: 2013

Diving depth: ~ 300 m

Vertical launch tubes: 24

Torpedo tubes: 8x650-mm

Weapons: various torpedoes, anti-ship and cruise missiles.


   The Project 885 Yasen (NATO designation Graney class) is the latest Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine. The lead boat, Severodvinsk, was laid down in 1993 however the project was stopped due to funding problems. It was commissioned with the Russian Navy only in 2013. The second boat of the class is built to improved project. Currently at least 6 of these boats are planned. These will become a successor to 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. Cruise missiles include the P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26), which has a range of about 300 km.

   Also there are eight 650-mm torpedo tubes for torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. It is reported that a total of 30 torpedoes and anti-ship missiles are carried.



Top 10 submarine in the world

Nr.5 Sierra II class (Russia)



Entered service: 1992

Diving depth: ~ 400 m

Torpedo tubes: 4x650-mm, 4x533-mm

Weapons: Torpedoes, SS-N-15 Starfish or SS-N-16 Stallion anti-submarine missiles, SS-N-21 Samson cruise missiles


   The Russian expensive Sierra I and Sierra II class boats succeeded the ill-fated Alfa class.

   These boats have two light and strong titanium hulls. These submarines can operate at great depths and provided reduced radiated noise levels as well as increased resistance to damage of torpedo attacks.

   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.

   The Russian Navy maintains these advanced submarines despite their high operating costs.



Most powerful submarine

Nr.6 Improved Los Angeles class (USA)



Entered service: 1988

Diving depth: 450 m

Torpedo tubes: 4x533-mm

Weapons: Mk.48 torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.


   The US Navy currently operates a total of 40 older Los Angeles class submarines alongside the newer Seawolf and Virginia class boats. These submarines proved to be an exceptionally good ASW platform. First boat of the improved Los Angeles class was commissioned in 1988.

   Improved submarines are much quieter. It is described that improved Los Angeles class boats are 7 times quieter than the original Los Angeles class boats.

   The class features a very potent weapon array, including Mk.48 torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles. Tomahawk missiles can be launched from torpedo tubes of from dedicated vertical launching systems.

   These boats can operate under ice where the Russian ballistic missile submarines tend to hide.



Best attack submarine

Nr.7 Akula class (Russia)



Entered service: 1986

Diving depth: ~ 300 m

Torpedo tubes: 4x650-mm, 4x533-mm

Weapons: torpedoes and missiles


   In the late 1980s Soviet Union launched a number of Akula class boats. The Akula class marked a significant improvement in Soviet submarine design as it is far quieter than and earlier SSNs. Furthermore it was far quitter than Western countries expected. The use of commercially available Western technology to reduce noise levels played an important role in this eroding a long-held NATO advantage in the underwater Cold War.

   Improved Akula II class boats became the first Russian submarines that were actually quieter than the latest US attack submarines of that time, the improved Los Angeles class boats. Sensors were also much improved comparing with the previous Soviet SSNs.

   These attack boats have four 650-mm torpedo tubes and four 533-mm tubes. Up to 40 torpedoes and missiles can be carried.

   Today Akula class boats make up about half of Russia's dwindling fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines.



Top 10 attack submarine

Nr.8 Soryu class (Japan)



Entered service: 2009

Diving depth: ~ 250 m

Torpedo tubes: 6x533-mm

Weapons: Type 89 torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles.


   The first Soryu class boat was commissioned with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces in 2009. Unlike other nuclear-powered boats on this list the Soryu class submarines have diesel-electric propulsion. These attack submarines, fitted with air-independent propulsion system. Japan is the only country to use this class of boats.

   Air-independent propulsion system allows to stay submerged for longer periods without surfacing to charge the batteries. Submerged endurance is increased from days to weeks. It also enhanced vessel's stealth and operational capabilities. However these submarines lack range and endurance of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

   Soryu class submarines have hydrodynamic design and are fitted with anechoic coating. Interior also has sound isolation of loud components.

   However these boats do not have vertical launch systems. Their armament is limited to Torpedoes and Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles.



Top 10 submarines

Nr.9 Ohio class (USA)



Entered service: 2006

Diving depth: 300 m

Vertical launch tubes: 22 (154)

Torpedo tubes: 4x533-mm

Weapons: Mk.48 torpedoes, Tomahawk cruise missiles


   The Ohio class submarines were originally designed to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles and were classified as SSBNs. However from 2002 to 2008 US Navy converted the four oldest submarines into cruise missile carriers - SSGNs. Conversion of the first boat was completed in 2006.

   The Ohio, Michigan, Florida and Georgia were converted to guided missile submarines by replacing Trident 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles with 7 smaller Tomahawk cruise missiles. Each converted SSGN is now capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Such amount of cruise missiles is typically deployed in a surface battle group.

   Also there are four 533-mm tubes for Mk.48 torpedoes. Converted Ohio submarines also have lockout chambers and can transport special forces personnel.


Top submarines in the world

Nr.10 Oscar II class (Russia)



Entered service: 1986

Diving depth: 500 m

Missile tubes: 24

Torpedo tubes: 2x650-mm, 4x533-mm

Weapons: Various torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) cruise missiles.


   The Project 949A Antey, known in NATO as the Oscar II class is a Soviet/Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine (SSGN). These boats are the third largest submarines in terms of displacement and length. Only the Soviet Typhoon class and American Ohio class boats are larger. Also these are the largest attack submarines ever constructed. Currently these are among the most capable Russian submarines.

   11 of these boats were built out of 19 planned. 4 boats remain in active service with the Russian Navy.

   By modern standards these boats are far from being stealthy. However these submarines pack a formidable punch. Soviets designed these giant cruise missile boats to attack US aircraft carrier battle groups and coastal installations.

   The Oscar II class SSGNs are armed with 24 P-700 Granit (NATO designation SS-N-19 Shipwreck) supersonic cruise missiles with a range of 550 km.

   These submarines are also fitted with two 650-mm and four 533-mm torpedo tubes, capable of launching both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. These include the SS-N-16 Stallion anti-ship missiles with a range of 50 km, carrying torpedoes, nuclear warheads or nuclear depth charges for use against surface ships or submarines.


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