For more than 100 years, the submarine — invented by Irish engineer John Holland and first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1900 — has been an integral part of the Navy. Today, 43 nations have submarines in their complement of naval forces, and the country with the most submarines is China.
To find the country with the most submarines, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed submarine count data for 2022 from Global Firepower, an annually updated, independent website that tracks defense-related information of 142 nations. Countries are ranked by the number of submarines, according to Global Firepower. The submarine ranking is solely based on the number of submarines rather than their type, quality, or capabilities.
The Germans used their submersibles as terror weapons in the World Wars and organized them in so-called wolf packs to hunt Allied convoys bound from North America for Great Britain and the Soviet Union.
The submarine of today can conduct sea- and land-attack through conventional and nuclear forces. Attack submarines may be either nuclear-powered or diesel-electric powered. A ballistic missile submarine can deploy submarine-launched ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, and a cruise missile submarine can launch cruise missiles. Many cruise missile submarines are capable of deploying nuclear warheads on their missiles. (This is the most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile.)
Submarines can be used in support of special forces operations as well as reconnaissance responsibilities. Modern navies use the submarine primarily as a deterrent in territorial waters. (Here are 20 of the world’s most elite special forces.)
The top-three nations with the most number of submarines have 217 among them; the remaining 40 countries have a total of 295 submarines. The submarine is second to surface vessels in terms of percentage of naval inventory in the top three countries, which are the three most powerful nations on Earth.
Click here to see the country with the most submarines
Click here to read our detailed methodology
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