Submarines: September 3, 2003

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Russia is now building fewer, and smaller, nuclear subs. In the last half century, 486 nuclear submarines have been built, and 51 percent of them have been Russian. But the Russian boats were noted for their unreliability, nosiness and growing size. This peaked with the Akula class ballistic missile subs, which displaced 18,000 tons on the surface. These behemoths are being scrapped and replaced with a new design, the Borei class, that displaces 12,000 tons. Earlier, the Russians had classes of cruise missile subs that displaced 14,000 tons. While the U.S. has a class of ballistic missile subs displacing 16,000 tons, most American nuclear subs displace about 6,000 tons. The Russians have decided that the American approach is cheaper and more effective. In fact, the most effective Russian submarine designs of the last two decades have been smaller, quieter ones. Russia will continue to build non-nuclear subs, as these are often sold to foreign nations that cannot afford the more expensive non-nuclear subs made in Western Europe.

 


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