A submarine, also called a sub, is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. Submarines have multiple uses, such as tourism, undersea archaeology, facility inspection and maintenance, and marine science, salvage, and exploration. Military uses of submarines include attacking enemy ships or submarines, protecting aircraft carriers and other ships, acting as a nuclear strike force, blockade running, and more.
Submarines were first widely used during World War I. Many navies now have a fleet of submarines, both large and small, primarily using them as a deterrent in territorial waters. A standard fleet is typically about five or more boats.
In the United States, there are three types of U.S. Navy submarines: ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines, and cruise missile submarines. The U.S. had the world’s first submersible with a documented record of use in combat called the Turtle. The Turtle was builtin 1775 and was used to attach explosive charges to ships in a harbor. Specifically, it was used against the Royal Navy vessels in the American Revolutionary War.
The modern submarine design was made around the 19th century. Most large submarines have a cylindrical body with hemispherical (or conical) ends. Submarines also typically have a vertical structure that houses sensing devices, periscopes, and communications devices. This vertical structure is called a “sail” in the United States and a “fin” in Europe. Additionally, there is a propeller at the rear and several hydrodynamic control fins.
In World War II, submarines proved to be very effective and very deadly tools. Germany used submarines during the war in the Battle of the Atlantic, cutting off Britain’s supply route by sinking merchant ships. The Imperial Japanese Navy operated the most diverse fleet of submarines in the war of all sizes, including midget submarines, medium-range submarines, and long-range fleet submarines. The Japanese also had the fastest submarines, ones that could carry multiple aircraft and those equipped with the most advanced torpedoes.
Number of Submarines by Country
Global Fire Power collected the most recent data on each nation’s number of naval submarines.
Landlocked countries typically do not have a standing navy and, therefore, do not have submarines. Those countries were not included in GFP’s rankings. The rankings do not distinguish between the types of submarines, size, age, or construction quality that each nation has.