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.
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.
Top 10 ballistic missile submarines in the world are these:
class (United States)
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.
class boat carries 24 ballistic missiles. Originally these were
Trident I missiles, however later all boats were refitted with much
Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs).
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
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
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.
Ohio class boats were converted to guided missile submarines. Their
Trident missile tubes were modified to contain vertical launch
cruise missiles. So as of 2017 a total of 14 Ohio class ballistic
missiles submarines remain in service.
a new class of ballistic missile submarines, known as
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.
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.
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.
class boats carry 16
Trident II D5 missiles. These are the same missiles used by the
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.
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.
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.
Le Triomphant class (France)
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
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.
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
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 IV and
Typhoon class ballistic missile submarines and will form a core
of Russian naval deterrent.
are stealthier and less detectable to sonar. Other advancements
include a pump jet propulsion. It is the first Russian submarine
with such propulsion system.
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
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.
Delta IV class (Russia)
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
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.
Delta III class (Russia)
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.
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.
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
Project 667 BDRM Delfin, known to West as the
Delta IV, began in 1975. The first boat was commissioned in
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
class ballistic missile submarines are being built in Russia.
Once in service these will replace both the Delta III and Delta IV class
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
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
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
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
Xia class (China)
Chinese ballistic 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.
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 boat 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 can carry 12 of these missiles.
reported that a second unit was constructed but was lost with all hands
in 1985 due to an accident, 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
A new class
of Chinese ballistic missiles submarines, the
(NATO designation Jin class), is a successor to the Xia class.
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
capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines. Three more bots of the same
class are under construction and two more are planned.
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.
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.
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.
Typhoon class (Russia)
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.
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.
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.
only one boat, the Dmitry Donskoy, remained operational. However it
was 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 was 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
On paper the
Typhoon class is much more capable than many submarines on this
list. However it is ranked last because of the status of
the last operational boat, which should be decommissioned soon.