4032 vs 1648: US and Russia sea-based nuclear power comparison

Compared with land-based and air-based nuclear forces, sea-based nuclear forces have higher concealment performance and greater wartime survivability.

A strategic nuclear submarine can carry With ten or twenty submarine-launched ballistic missiles and hundreds of nuclear warheads, the firepower of nuclear strikes is also unmatched by land-based and air-based nuclear forces. The United States and Russia are not only the two countries with the largest number of nuclear warheads in the world, but also they possess the most powerful sea-based nuclear forces. So which of the two countries has the stronger sea-based nuclear force?

US SLBM capabilities

The main force of sea-based nuclear forces is strategic nuclear-powered submarines equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles (nuclear torpedoes, nuclear mines, and other nuclear weapons that do not have long-range strike capabilities are not included in the statistics of this article). There are 14 Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarines in active service in the United States, which are equipped with Trident-2 SLBM this strategic nuclear submarine has a large number of silos and advanced performance. The Ohio and strategic nuclear submarines were developed in the 1970s and officially commissioned in 1981, and are still one of the most outstanding strategic nuclear submarines.

ohio class submarine
Ohio class Submarine

The Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine has a full-load underwater displacement of 18,000 tons. The power system is one S8G light water nuclear reactor. The main power system is two transmission turbine engines and one 325-horsepower auxiliary engine. The advantage of the Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine is not only the large tonnage and strong carrying capacity, but also the low noise is the biggest advantage of the Ohio-class. The underwater noise of the Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine is only about 100 decibels, which is basically equivalent to the background noise of the ocean. This makes enemy hard to detect Ohio class submarine.

The Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine has 24 missile silos, and currently uses the Trident II-D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile. The Trident II-D5 has a maximum range of 11,000 kilometers and has a global strike capability. The Trident II-D5 has many Warhead carrying mode, the maximum nuclear warhead mode can carry 12 separate guided nuclear warheads, and an Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine can carry up to 288 nuclear warheads. If this is calculated, an Ohio-class can destroy most countries in the world.

Russia SLBM capabilities

The Russian Navy has 4 types of strategic nuclear submarines, a total of 12, of which the largest tonnage is the Typhoon-class with a displacement of up to 46,000 tons, which is comparable to an aircraft carrier. At present, only one Typhoon-class nuclear submarine is in service in Russia, but the main task of the Typhoon submarine is to conduct SLBM test mission, and no longer perform the combat readiness duty mission. The Typhoon-class strategic nuclear submarine can carry 20 P-39 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which can carry up to 10 split-guided nuclear warheads.

Delta IV Class Ballistic Missile Submarine
Delta IV Class Ballistic Missile Submarine

The other two strategic nuclear submarines of the Russian Navy are Delta III and Delta IV. Delta III can carry 16 RSM-54 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which can carry 3 nuclear warheads with a maximum range of 6,500 kilometers.

The Delta IV class submarines employs the D-9RM launch system and 16 R-29RMU Sineva liquid-fueled missiles which each carry four independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Unlike previous modifications, the Delta IV-class submarine is able to fire missiles in any direction from a constant course in a circular sector. The underwater firing of the ballistic missiles can be conducted at a depth of 55 meters (180 ft) while cruising at a speed of 6–7 knots (11–13 km/h; 6.9–8.1 mph). All the missiles can be fired in a single salvo.

Borei class submarine
Borei class submarine

At present, Russia’s most advanced and future main force is the Type 955 Borei-class strategic nuclear submarine. The Borei-class strategic nuclear submarine is an elite underwater nuclear strike force deployed by the Russian Navy after 2012. The submarine is fully loaded displacement is 24,000 tons, and the number of missile launchers is also 16. However, the Borei-class nuclear submarine is equipped with Russia’s most advanced RSM-56 submarine-launched ballistic missile with 6 MIRVed warheads. The missile has a maximum range of 10,000 kilometers and can strike an accuracy of 20-350 meters.

So, who is winning?

The US Navy’s Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine was originally built 18, but later the US and Russia reached an agreement to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. The US Navy dismantled the nuclear warheads of 4 of them, but did not want to retire them, but converted them into cruise missile submarines. At present, the 14 Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarines of the US Navy can carry 336 submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the maximum number of nuclear warheads carried is as high as 4,032.

The Russian Navy’s 4 models of 12 strategic nuclear submarines, the Typhoon class, are no longer capable of strategic strikes because they are about to retire. One Delta III can carry 48 nuclear warheads, six Delta IVs can carry 960 nuclear warheads, and the latest four Borei-class strategic nuclear submarines can carry 640 nuclear warheads. In this way, the Russian Navy’s current strategic strike capabilities are 11 nuclear submarines that can carry up to 1,648 nuclear warheads.

Ohio class submarine
Ohio class submarine

In terms of quantity, the maximum nuclear warhead carrying capacity of the 14 strategic nuclear submarines of the U.S. Navy is almost three times that of the Russian Navy, but its actual nuclear deterrence capability does not exceed that of the Russian Navy. Damn, why is this? There are two reasons for this. The first is that the US nuclear submarines are not in a “full load” state, that is, the number of nuclear warheads has not been maximized.


According to the latest data released by the United States in 2021, the current number of nuclear warheads in the United States is 3,750. Even if the total number of decommissioned but not destroyed is only about 5,500, 3,750 are active US land-based, air-based and sea-based nuclear warheads. The total number, it can be seen from here, that the 14 Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarines in the United States cannot all be deployed in the maximum mode of 288 nuclear warheads, so the number of nuclear warheads of its sea-based nuclear force is not as much as calculated.

Another point is that there is no difference between the destruction of one nuclear strike and the destruction of ten times! The Russian Navy has more than 1,000 nuclear warheads. Even considering the number of interceptions and the probability of self-destruction or even unsuccessful launch, at least half of them can hit the target in actual combat. The blow of hundreds of nuclear warheads is enough to completely destroy any country. Although the number of sea-based nuclear warheads in the United States is more, there is no difference between repeated destruction and destruction. Therefore, in terms of actual nuclear strike capability, the Russian Navy is not much worse than the US Navy, and its strategic deterrence capability is not bad at all.

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