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Top 10 Ballistic Missile Submarines


   Which is the best ballistic missile submarine in the world? Which is the greatest and deadliest nuclear boomer and why? Even though a lot of things about these submarines are kept in secrecy, yet many of the information is freely available. We know what kind of missiles these submarines carry, how many of these missiles they carry, how stealthy they are in relation to each other, how deep they can dive, where they typically operate, and so on. This Top 10 analysis is based on the combined score of offensive capabilities, stealthiness, and some other features.

   The main mission for this type of boats is to patrol undetected under the water. Once the country has been attacked these boats are designed to launch their ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. So current position of these submarines are kept in high secrecy. It would be a tough task for the enemy to track and engage these boats before thy can launch their deadly missiles. At the same time position of silo-based ballistic missiles are known and these are already targeted by hostile missiles. In case of a nuclear war the stealthy submarines have a greater chance of surviving the first strike. Once on high alert the boats can leave their bases stay undetected for months.

   This Top 10 list includes only operational boats. It do not includes submarines that are currently being developed or are not yet in operational service.

   Currently Top 10 ballistic missile submarines in the world are these:



Best submarine


Nr.1 Ohio class (USA)


   The Ohio class ballistic missile submarines were designed in the United States in the early 1970s. The lead boat was commissioned with the US Navy in 1981. A total of 18 Ohio class boats were built.

   Each Ohio class boat carries 24 ballistic missiles. Originally these were Trident I missiles, however later all boats were refitted with much more capable Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs).

   The Trident II alone are one of most capable ballistic missiles in the world. These missiles have a range of 7 800 km with full load and 12 000 km with reduced load. Each US Trident II missiles can carry up to 14 warheads with a 475 kT yield each. Though START I agreement reduced this number to 8. Each re-entry vehicle is targeted independently. Furthermore re-entry vehicles maneuver in order to avoid enemy air defenses.

   Because of their longer-range Trident missiles, the Ohio class boats have patrol areas in waters either close to the US or in the remoter parts of the world's oceans, making virtually impossible effective anti-submarine measures. The USA controls most of the water area with its fleet. It makes these ICMBs extremely deadly. The more so as the boats, are acoustically very quiet.

   Recently 4 Ohio class boats were converted to guided missile submarines. Their Trident missile tubes were modified to contain vertical launch systems for Tomahawk cruise missiles. So as of 2017 a total of 14 Ohio class ballistic missiles submarines remain in service.

   Currently a new class of ballistic missile submarines, known as Columbia class, is being developed in the United States. This next-generation submarine will eventually replace the Ohio class. It is scheduled that construction of the lead boat will commence in 2021 and will enter service in 2031. So the Ohio class boats will remain operational for a number of years to come.



The best ballistic missile submarine

Nr.2 Vanguard class (United Kingdom)


   The Vanguard class is the largest submarine type ever constructed in the United Kingdom. The lead boat was commissioned in 1993. A total of 4 boats were constructed and are currently in service with the Royal Navy. A single Vanguard-class boat is on deterrence patrol at any one time, and a reserve boat is also available.

   Despite their age the Vanguard class boats are cloaked in tight secrecy. Details on their weapon systems and patrols are still highly classified, even though after the end of the Cold War their strategic mission was downgraded. According to the UK Secretary of State for Defense the Vanguard class boats had their readiness to fire changed from a matter of minutes to a matter of days.

   The Vanguard class boats carry 16 Trident II D5 missiles. These are the same missiles used by the US Ohio class boats. Missiles are made in the United States, however the British missiles use different locally built re-entry vehicles. British missiles are not limited by nuclear arms reduction agreements and can carry up to 12 warheads per missile. However the Vanguard class boats carry less missiles than Ohio class boats.

   Each Vanguard-class submarine can carry a maximum of 192 nuclear warheads, although the Royal Navy originally insisted that each boat would carry no more than 96, deployed across eight missiles. Since the Strategic Defense Review, this has been further reduced to 48 warheads per boat, spread across four missiles. Although the Ministry of Defense refuses to comment on how many missiles are deployed when a boat is on patrol, it has indicated that the complement of Trident missiles now only carries one warhead per missile, which is probably in the sub-strategic kiloton range.

   The Vanguard class boats were originally intended for a service life of 25 years. Currently a new Dreadnaugt class of ballistic missile submarines is being constructed in the UK. Construction of the lead boat commenced in 2016. It is expected to be commissioned with the Royal Navy in 2028.



List of Top 10 ballistic missile submarines

Nr.3 Le Triomphant class (France)


   The Le Triomphant is a French class of ballistic missile submarines. The lead boat was commissioned in 1997. Originally 6 boats of this class were planned, but with the end of the Cold War only 4 were completed. Currently all 4 of these boats are in service with the French Navy.

   Each Le Triomphant class boat carries 16 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Originally it was planned to arm these French boats with the M5 missiles. However it appeared that these were very expensive to develop. The program was eventually been abandoned and the boats were armed with cheaper, but less capable M45 missiles. Between 2010-15 all four boats were re-equipped with new M51 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The M51 has a range of 8 000 km with full payload and 10 000 km with reduced payload. Such range is sufficient to strike most areas in China, Russia or the United States, firing straight from the pier. Each missile carries 6-10 independently targetable warheads. Each has a blast yield of 107 kT. Furthermore the missile carries penetration aids in order to overcome hostile air defenses. Newer version of this missile, that appeared in 2015, the M51.2, carries much more powerful 150 kT warheads. A further improved M51.3 version is being developed. But it will enter service only in around 2025.

   The M51 missiles of the Le Triomphant class are inferior to the Trident II missiles carried by the British Vanguard class boats. Hence these French boats are ranked on the third place.



Deadliest submarine

Nr.4 Borei class (Russia)


   The Project 955, known in the West as Borei class, is a new Russian class of ballistic missile submarines. The lead boat was commissioned in 2012. As of 2017 there are 3 of these boats in the Russian Navy service, plus another 5 boats are under construction. The Borei class submarines will replace ageing Russian Delta III, Delta IV and Typhoon class ballistic missile submarines and will form a core of Russian naval deterrent.

   These boats are stealthier and less detectable to sonar. Other advancements include a pump jet propulsion. It is the first Russian submarine with such propulsion system.

   These boat carry Bulava (Western designation SS-N-32) missiles. The missile has a declared range of 9 500 km and can carry 6 warheads with a yield of 150 kT each. It can also carry 10 warheads, though to a range of only 4 000 km. This missile was designed to overcome hostile air defenses.

   Overall this new Russian missile is much less capable than the US Trident D5. It has shorter range, can carry significantly less payload and is reportedly not that accurate. In terms of performance it is close to the US Trident C4, which was retired in 2005. Furthermore there are issues with these new missiles.

   As of 2017 there are 3 of these submarines in service with the Russian Navy. Each of these boats can carry 16 missiles. Another 5 Borei class submarines are currently under construction. These are built to improved standard and will carry 20 missiles. The first improved Borei class boat is scheduled to be commissioned with the Russian Navy in 2017.



Which is the best submarine in the world?

Nr.5 Delta IV class (Russia)


   Development of the Project 667 BDRM Delfin, known to the West as the Delta IV class, began in 1975. It was a follow-on to the previous Delta III class. The first boat was commissioned in 1985. Between 1985 and 1990, seven Delta IVs were constructed.

   The Delta IV is a further modification of the Delta III, with an increased diameter pressure hull and a longer bow section. Displacement has increased by 1 200 tons and it is 12 m longer. These boats were constructed in parallel to the Typhoon class, in case the larger boats proved unsuccessful.

   The submarines were originally fitted with R-29RM (Western designation SS-N-18 Skif) missiles. Later these were replaced by improved R-29RMU2 Sineva. Currently these boats carry further improved R-29RMU2.1 Layner missiles. These have a range of 8 300 km and can carry 12 low-yield warheads. This range is sufficient to strike targets in China, Europe and the United States. Each boat carries 16 of these intercontinental missiles.

   These boats have dated design and are not as stealthy as the newer Western boats. However they still pack a mighty punch.

   As of 2017 a total of 6 Delta IV class ballistic missile submarines remain in service with the Russian Navy. These operate in Northern and Pacific fleets and form a core of the Russian naval nuclear triad. It is planned that the Delta IV class submarines will remain operational until at least 2030.



The best ballistic missile submarine

Nr.6 Delta III class (Russia)


   Although the Soviets were pioneers in firing missiles from submarines, their early systems were short-ranged. Their early ballistic missile submarines, known in the West as the Yankee class, were based on stolen American plans for the Benjamin Franklin class. These provided the foundation for the follow-on Delta class, an enlarged development of the Yankee design. The first Deltas entered service in 1972, the original Delta I design being succeeded by the interim Delta II with 16 missiles rather than the original 12. These were followed from 1976 by the Project 667 BDR Kalmar, better known to the West as the Delta III class. These had a larger and longer turtle-back abaft the sail. A total of 14 Delta III class submarines were built.

   The Delta III submarines originally housed R-29R submarine-launched ballistic missiles (Western designation SS-N-18 Stingray). It was the first Soviet sea-based multiple-warhead system. Currently the surviving Delta III class boats carry improved R-29RKU2 intercontinental ballistic missiles. These have a range of 9 000 km and can reach all targets in China, Europe and the United States.

   Development of the follow-on Project 667 BDRM Delfin, known to West as the Delta IV, began in 1975. The first boat was commissioned in 1985.

   By 2017 only 3 Delta III class submarines remain in service with the Russian Navy. These boats are already exceeding their planned service lives. It is likely that in the near future all Delta III class boats will be decommissioned. Currently a number of new Borei class ballistic missile submarines are being built in Russia. Once in service these will replace both the Delta III and Delta IV class boats.



Top 10 ballistic missile submarines

Nr.7 Jin class (China)


   The Type 094 (NATO designation Jin class) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine is the second-generation SSBN of the Chinese Navy. Its development possibly began in the early 1980s. It is a successor to the unreliable Type 092 or Xia class. The whole development project was kept in high secrecy. Speculations have been made, that development of the Type 094 class was assisted by Russian Rubin Design Bureau, however this information was not confirmed. It seems that the lead boat was commissioned in 2010. Some sources claim that these Chinese ballistic missile submarines were plagued with various problems and design flaws. By 2013 Jin class boats were never sent on deterrent patrol missions. As of 2017 China operates 4 of these ballistic missile submarines. Some sources report, that a 5th submarines of this class is also planned.

   Externally the Jin class appears to be a scaled-up version of the Xia class. It also incorporates some technologies of the Type 093 (Shang class) nuclear-powered attack submarine. Hull of the submarine was enlarged to accommodate missile tubes and part of the nuclear reactor.

    The Jin class carries a total of 12 JL-2 (NATO designation CSS-N-5 Sabbot) submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The JL-2 missile has an estimated maximum range of 8 000 km. It allows these boats to hold US territory within missile range, while operating from Chinese costal waters. Each JL-2 missile carries a single 250-1 000 kT nuclear warhead, or up to 3-4 smaller warheads with a yield of 90 kT each. These missiles were first deployed operationally in 2015.

   These submarines are not as advanced or stealthy as the Western ballistic missile submarines. Furthermore these are even inferior to the Russian submarines. China was always dragging behind in terms of submarine technology. It was reported that the Type 094 class boats are as noisy as the Russian Delta III class submarines, that were adopted back in the mid 1970s.



Which is the best ballistic missile submarine?

Nr.8 Xia class (China)


   The first Chinese balistic missile submarine programme began in the 1970s. The sole Chinese ballistic missile submarine, the Changzheng 6 is a modified Han class (NATO designation) nuclear-powered attack submarine. It was laid down in 1978 and commissioned in 1987. Its Chinese designation is the Type 092 and is designated by NATO as the Xia class.

   Construction of both boat and intended missile system was a catalogue of disasters. The Xia class boat is slow, noisy and its reactor is unreliable. The JL-1 (CSS-N-3) missile failed on its first live firings in 1985 and it took three years to achieve a successful test launch. The JL-1 missile has a single 250 kT warhead and its comparatively short range of 2 150 km would force the vessel to patrol perilously close to enemy shores. In fact the Xia class has never left Chinese costal waters and seldom put to sea before a refit that lasted from 1995 to 2000. It emerged from dockyard hands with a new coat of black paint - replacing the previous steel blue - a bow mounted sonar, redesigned missile casing that would allow for longer missiles and new firing systems for a different missile, the JL-1A, which has a reported range of 2 800 km. This submarine 12 of these missiles.

   It was reported that a second unit was constructed but lost with all hands in an accident in 1985, but Chinese secrecy remains at Cold War levels. This sole boat has little strategic value but whatever plans there might have been to extend the Xia class have come to nought. Even if all systems are functioning, the boats performance is poor by modern standards. The sole Xia class boat would not survive long in wartime against western anti-submarine warfare platforms.

   A new class of Chinese ballistic missiles submarines, the Type 94 (NATO designation Jin class), is a successor to the Xia class.



Top 10 ballistic missile submarines

Nr.9 Arihant class (India)


   In 2009 India launched its first indigenously designed nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. The whole project was kept in high secrecy. In 2014 submarine was secretly moved out of harbor for sea trials. The lead boat was commissioned with the Indian Navy in 2016. It is considered a milestone in the development of the Indian Navy. India joined five other countries, including China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States, capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines. Three more bots of the same class are under construction and two more are planned.

   The lead boat was named INS Arihant (the one, who has conquered all internal enemies). Design of this boat is based on the Charlie I class submarine, leased from the former Soviet Union to India from 1987 to 1991. For a long time this new Indian boat was referred as the ATV or Advanced Technology Vessel, to maintain secrecy. It was a part of a science project, lasting nearly 11 years. The submarine and power plant were developed with Russian assistance.

   It is reported that Arihant carries only four K-4 ballistic missiles. These have a range of 3 000-3 500 km and carry nuclear warheads. It is a submarine-launcher version of the Agni III ballistic missile. These missiles give India a second strike capability. The submarine can remain hidden deep in the Indian Ocean or launch missiles within territorial waters. Some sources report that submarine can also carry twelve shorter-range K-15 ballistic missiles. These non-strategic missiles have a range of 750-1 900 km.

   The Arihant class boats are powered by a nuclear pressurized water reactor, developed at the Center of Atomic Research. Some sources report that this nuclear reactor was built with significant Russian assistance.



Nr1 best ballistic missile submarine in the world

Nr.10 Typhoon class (Russia)


   The Soviet Project 941 Akula boats, known in the West as Typhoon class, are the largest undersea vessels ever built. These boats are based on a double hull design that comprises two separate pressure hulls joined by a single outer covering to give increased protection against anti-submarine weapons.

   The class was built specifically for operations with the Soviet Northern Fleet in the Arctic ice pack. The reinforced sail, advanced stern fin with horizontal hydroplane fitted aft of the screws and retractable bow hydroplanes allow the submarine to break easily through spots of thin ice within the Arctic ice shelf. It was much harder to detect and engage these boats under the ice pack.

   A total of 6 Typhoon class boats were commissioned between 1981-89. The 7th vessel was laid down, but never completed.

   The Typhoon class boats were armed with R-39 missiles, known in the West as SS-N-20 Sturgeon). These missiles could be fired from within the Arctic Circle and still hit targets anywhere within the continental US. Each Typhoon class submarine carried 20 of these missiles.

   As of 2017 only one boat, the Dmitry Donskoy, remains operational. However it is used as a test platform, rather than a combat submarine. In 2003 this boat was refitted to carry the new Bulava submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles. One launcher of the new missile system was fitted. This submarine performed a number of tests. Furthermore the R-39 missiles were decommissioned in 2004 and most of their stockpiles were destroyed due to START I and START II nuclear arms reduction treaties. On top of that the last operational Typhoon class boats is significantly exceeding its planned service life of 25 years. It is planned that it will remain operational as a testing platform until 2019 and scrapped after that. It will be replaced in service by a new Borei class submarine.

   On paper the Typhoon class is much more capable than some submarines on this list. However it is ranked last because of the status of the last operational boat, which should be decommissioned soon.













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