Modern nuclear attack submarines

With the episode of the cancellation of the Shortfin Barracuda conventionally powered submarine contract by Australia in favor of American-British nuclear-powered submarines, the nuclear-powered attack submarines experienced, these recent months, a relatively contradictory media over-exposure with the mission by nature discreet of these oceanic Leviathans which constitute, still today, among the most complex human constructions ever carried out.

As fast as they are stealthy, nuclear attack submarines yes SSN, whose missions go from intelligence gathering to anti-surface warfare, but also to hunting other submarines, are today the prerogative navies of the world's five major nuclear powers, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, who are engaged in fierce competition to gain the advantage over others in this area.

In this summary, we will study the five classes of nuclear attack submarines currently in production in the world, in order to understand their advantages and their own specificities, and thus perceive the struggle that the great powers are engaged in under the oceans. worldwide in this very high-tech field.

China: Type 09-IIIG Shang class nuclear attack submarines

If Chinese naval and submarine construction has made dazzling progress over the past 30 years, with the arrival of high-performance ships such as the Type 055 cruisers or the Type 075 LHDs, Beijing has long had the reputation of producing only submarines. -sailors of mediocre quality by Western or Russian standards.

This bad reputation has been partly swept away by the arrival of the Type 039 anaerobic-powered submarines of the Song and Yuan classes, ships that have demonstrated their acoustic discretion and the efficiency of their propulsion system.

However, in the field of nuclear-powered submarines, Chinese production still lags behind American, Russian or French ships of the same type, even if the SSNs of the Shang class have shown real progress in the field.

Type 093 SSN China Military planning and plans | Military Naval Constructions | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
The SSNs of the Shang class are the first Chinese nuclear submarines to reach a level of quality close to that of other major world navies

Heirs to the first Type 09-I of the Han class, which entered service in the mid-70s and were deemed inefficient and particularly noisy, the first 3 Shang type 09-III class submarines entered service in the early 2000s. 3, while the following 09 units of the improved Type 2010-IIIG class were delivered to the Chinese Navy during the XNUMXs.

110 meters long for a submerged displacement of 7.000 tonnes, the improved Shang and Shang-G have corrected some of the crippling defects of the first generation Han, with in particular two new generation pressurized water reactors and a propeller optimized for reduce the ship's acoustic signature.

According to some specialists, the Shang now have an acoustic signature comparable to that of the Los Angeles or Akula class SSNs that entered service in the 80s in the United States and the Soviet Union, with sound radiation below 110 dB. In addition, the Shang would have a powerful sonar suite making it a perfectly capable adversary in both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions.

Launched from 2012, the modernized Type 09-IIIG version has vertical silos accommodating 12 CJ-10 cruise missiles with an estimated range of more than 1.500 km, allowing the ship to evolve simultaneously in the class of submarines nuclear attack submarines and nuclear cruise missile submarines, or SSGNs, to which the Russian Iassens and Virginias of the US Navy also belong.

Shang production is now halted, as Chinese shipyards appear to be focusing on building Type 09-IV nuclear ballistic missile submarines, as well as the new class of SSN designated Type 09-V, a more imposing, more discreet and better armed ship which aims to be at the level of current production in the West and in Russia, with a largely reduced acoustic signature compared to previous generation ships.

However, for the time being, no reliable information has been communicated concerning this future class of Chinese SSN, nor on the calendar and the actual performance of this program.

United States: Virginia-class SSN

At the beginning of the 1990s, the US Navy undertook to develop the replacement for the excellent Los Angeles class SSN which played a decisive role during the end of the Cold War in gaining the upper hand over the best Soviet submersibles such as the Viktor III, the Alpha and the Akula. Initially, this developed the Sea class Wolf, a high-performance SSN designed for anti-submarine warfare, or Hunter-Killer, missions.


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