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, even today, among the most complex human constructions ever carried out. As fast as they are stealthy, nuclear attack submarines yes SNA, whose missions go from intelligence gathering to anti-surface warfare, but also to hunting other submarines, are today the prerogative exclusive to the navies of the 5 major nuclear powers in the world, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, who engage in fierce competition to gain the advantage over others in this area. In this summary, we will study the 5 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 waging under the oceans. worldwide in this very high-tech field.
China: Type 09-IIIG Shang class
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 SNAs of the Shang class have shown real progress in the field.
Heirs to the first Type 09-I of the Han class which entered service in the mid-70s and reputed to be inefficient and particularly noisy, the first 3 Shang type 09-III class submarines entered service in the early 2000s , while the following 3 units of the improved Type 09-IIIG class were delivered to the Chinese Navy during the 2010s. Improved Shang-Gs, fixed some of the crippling flaws in first-generation Han, including two next-generation pressurized water reactors and an optimized propeller to 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 SNAs that entered service in the 110s in the United States and the Soviet Union, with sound radiation of less than 7.000 dB. In addition, the Shang would have a powerful sonar suite making it a perfectly capable adversary in both anti-submarine warfare 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 SNA 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 SNA, nor on the calendar and the actual performance of this program.
United States: Virginia class
In the early 1990s, the US Navy undertook to develop the replacement for the excellent Los Angeles-class SNA which played a decisive role during the end of the Cold War to take the lead over the best Soviet submersibles such as the Viktor III, Alphas and Akulas. Initially, it developed the Sea Wolf class, a high-performance SNA designed for anti-submarine warfare, or Hunter-Killer, missions. But the unit price of these ships, $2,8 billion in the early 90s, and the disappearance of the Soviet threat, quickly led American officials to end the Sea Wolf program after only 3 units, to turn towards a more economical and versatile submarine, the Virginia class. 115 meters long for a diving displacement of 7.900 tons, the Virginia has since been the designated replacement for the US Navy's Los Angeles, with 19 ships in service out of the 66 initially planned, for final production today targeting 35. copies. Slower than the Seawolf with a top speed of only 25 knots against 35 for its elder, the Virginia is however much more versatile, in particular with its 12 vertical silos carrying as many Tomahawk cruise missiles.
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