U.S. Navy Compared to Russian Navy

An elevated port side view of the forward section of a Soviet Oscar Class SSGN nuclear-powered attack submarine. (Soviet Military Power, 1986)

One person commented on this blog about the danger posed by Russian submarines. Probably a good time to look at what the threat is.

I did start my career in the U.S. defense industry working with submarine sonars and spectrum analyzers. This was back in the bad old days, when there were hundreds of subs out there. In our new found more peaceful world, there are a lot less.

Russian has around 56 submarines, according to Wikipedia. How many of these are fully operational is not something I know. Of those, 11 of them are boomers or ballistic missile submarines. These are submarines that carry nuclear missiles and would not be part of any fleet-on-fleet battle. They also list 6 “special-purpose submarines,” two are old converted attack submarines. The group of subs that threaten our control of the seas are 8 cruise missile submarines (SSGN) and 15 nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). There are also 22 smaller diesel-power attack submarines. This is 45 or less operational subs to threaten our carrier fleets.

The biggest danger from Russian fleet is their 8 cruise missile submarines. These really are a threat to our carriers.

The United States has around 66 submarines. Of those, 14 are boomers.

 

Comparative Ship Count:

…………………………U.S……Size…………………….Russia…….Size

Aircraft Carriers………11…….100,000-106,300………..1….,…….58,600 tonnes

LHA/LHD……………….9……..41,150-45,693 tons (these are carriers !!!)

Battlecruisers………….0……………………………………2…………28,000 tons

Cruisers……………….22……..9,800 tons………………..3………….12,500 tons

Destroyers…………….69……..8,315-9,800…………….11…………7,570 – 7,940 tons

LCS…………………….20…….3,104-3,900 (“Littoral Combat Ships”)

Frigates…………………0…………………………………..10………….1,930 – 5,400 tons

Large Corvettes………………………………………………6………….2,200 tons

Corvettes……………………………………………………..76………..500 – 1050 tons

 

LPD…………………….11……25,300 (“Landing Platform Dock”)

LSD…………………….12…..15,939-16,100 (“Landing Ship Dock”)

LST (Landing Ship Tank)…………………………………..20…………..4,080 – 6,600 tons

Special-purpose………7…..895-23,000…………………18…………..500 – 23,780

Patrol Ships…………………………………………………..2…………..1,500

MCM……………………11……….1,312 tons (mine countermeasures)

PC………………………13………….331 tons (coastal patrol)

 

Large SSBN…………………………………………………..1………….48,000 tons

SSBNs………………..14……..18,750 tonnes……………10…………13,700 – 24,000 tons

SSGN…………………..4………18,750 tonnes…………….8………….19,400 tons

SSN……………………48…….6,927-12,139 tonnes…….15…………7,250 – 13,800 tons

SSK…………………….0……………………………………..22…………2,700 – 3,950 tons

Special purpose subs…………………………………………6………….600 – 18,200 tons

 

I did not bother to list landing craft (Russia has 37 of 555 tons or less), patrol boats (Russian has 37 of 139 tons or less), mine countermeasure vessels (Russian has 6 of 1,100 tons or less), auxiliaries (cargo ships, ice breakers, logistic vessels, salvage vessels, tugs, tankers, oilers, transports, etc.), LCCs (amphibious command ships), submarine tenders, maritime prepositioning ships (T-AK), the USS Pueblo, and the USS Constitution.

What is a ton:

Short ton (U.S.) = 2,000 pounds

Metric Tonne = 2,204.6 pounds

Long ton (UK) = 2,240 pounds

 

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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6 Comments

  1. For all intents and purposes, all the Russian subs are cruise missile subs. As there has never been a successful system designed (the United States just abandoned its latest counter-torpedo system) against the wake homing torpedoes that the Soviets designed, it isn’t clear why the torpedo is given such short shrift.

    Russian diesels are now very quite and are often very large. So their weapon count is often pretty high. The problem with trying to knock out a carrier is that they aren’t particularly fast. But if a carrier enters the area they are in, they can be very hard to detect. The diesel submarines are now becoming “air-independent” submarines. The Russian Lada class is one of this type, and is not entering service.

    Add to this the various tests of super large nuclear torpedoes ( NATO code name KANYON) which seem to be a one-shot deal to knock out a US Carrier group, and you have a completely new system to deal with.

    In the world of submarines, it is particularly hard to just count the numbers. The amount of recent technology innovations, with the use of commercially designed electronics for sensor arrays to speed up the design cycle, means that the whole area is in flux.

    And given the problem of sunk-costs, sometimes when an area is in flux, it is the late arrivals that get the advantage.

    • I worked in the 1980s on submarine sonar systems, spectrum analyzers, MK-48 ADCAP torpedo and the Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. My “inside knowledge” is dated, but then so are some of their submarines. The Oscar II class is from 1980s, as are the Akula and Kilo classes and most of their other subs. There are not a lot of new subs (2?). I gather the new Yasen class SSN is an upgraded derivative from a design in the 1980s and there have been problems with the new Lada class SSK.

      The problem with evaluating Russian military capabilities is that while their cutting edge and newest material are very much advanced, they make up a minority of their force.

  2. The biggest problem lies in the limitation of ASW capabilities of US carrier groups. AIP equipped submarines have that demonstrated time and time again.

    However, diesel subs pose a threat primary in littorial waters. Russia and China would engage US carrier groups far beyond that area with MRBMs which means that diesel subs would play a marginal role in combating carrier groups.

    Regarding sunk costs: there is a growing concern in the military community that carriers would play the same role in a future conflict between peer to peer adversaries as did the battleship in WW2. The reason being missiles not subs.

  3. Christopher just a small request, please use a true table when presenting those kinds of numbers. Be it on the emails or on the site they are very hard to interpret.

    Surely you have such an option on the post structure options.

    Cheers

    • Yea, I am not much of a graphics guy. I find it time consuming and boring. Not sure what is involved with creating charts and tables for this site, especially as it appears in multiple platforms. I set it up so it is readable on my computer screen but have no doubt that it is more difficult to read on some others. Sorry.

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