The armed forces are a vital part of any nation's security, as they protect their citizens against both external as well as internal threats. They're there in the air, on land and even in the depths of the ocean making sure that the populous can go on living their everyday lives and continue to embrace what it means to be from that particular nation. National security is of the utmost importance no matter where you come from because, let's face it, without it there wouldn't be much of anything to protect in the first place. Sure, we may hear about what's going on in the world on a pretty regular basis but it's not often that we have to experience the terror, death and destruction that war can bring upon us all.
All in all, it is safe to assume that we will be hearing about land warfare on a pretty regular basis, especially considering what's going on within the Eastern hemisphere at this moment, but what about the events that we can't see? That's right, I'm talking about those that happen underwater. While submarines may not be the weapon which is most frequently used by the armed forces, it serves as a stealthy approach for any mission where a coastline is readily available— and a powerful one at that. From nuclear-powered submarines to those armed with simple missiles, these underwater giants can't help but pack a punch that will surely leave a dent in whatever it comes into contact with. But, where can you find the biggest submarine forces that the world has to offer? Well, there's only one way to find out so scroll on down to find the answers that you seek.
15. Columbia — 4 Submarines
Just putting it out there - this figure may be wrong but the only full list of what Columbia's Navy is comprised of was in Spanish and, well, let's just say that I don't understand enough of the language to fully grasp what it said. Either way, Columbia is known as South America's underwater superpower so they don't have to use whatever weapons that they do own very often. All in all, there are four military-grade submarines that are known to be in their possession and they are going to be acquiring another two in the near future. The four in their arsenal are two German-made submarines that fall under the classification of U-206A which they came to own back in 2012 and, another two vessels which are also from Germany and fall under the Pijao-class, U209. However, while they may be making the current efforts to modernize their fleet, they still have a long way to go if they hope to one day compete with the big dogs. Then again, when you consider that a lot of their efforts are focused on combating the drug cartel that is happening on their own soil, maybe four submarines are plenty.
6 Italy — 6 Submarines
Italy may have been using submarines even before The Spanish Civil War of 1936 came to pass, but this method is an oldie but a goodie. While they may have never possessed the biggest fleet in the world, this may change sooner than you think. As a result of the increased amount of instability and conflict in Europe as well as the need to continue trade, the Italian Navy has had to up the ante and expand their armada. Due to their partnership with the Germans, they have been able to acquire two type 212As in 2012 and four brand new type 212A submarines which will greatly improve the strength of the militia. When you're trying to fight crimes of trafficking of the drug and human sort, you always need to be one step ahead of the bad guys and we can only hope that this will be enough to reduce the possible risks involved.
13. Egypt - 6 Submarines
While Egypt may have been behind the times for quite a while, the armed forces have taken steps toward modernization and, with the help of countries like China and the United States of America they are closer than ever to achieving their goal. They really have China to thank for their improvements because they're the ones who gave them their first eight upgraded submarines which they then improved on. However, in recent news, Egypt has actually purchased four naval submarines from the Germans which just so happen to be Type 209 ships. What this means is that these 64-foot long vessels allow the Egyptian Navy to fire torpedoes at targets on the land as well as at sea, all from the comfort of their own submarine. Sure, it may have been a multi-million dollar expenditure on their end but when you have two coastlines to protect, in their case the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea, and the ever-increasing threat of terrorism inching closer and closer everyday, it's easy to see why it was worth the big bucks.
5 France - 10 Submarines
Out of all of the submarine forces in the world, the one that France possesses is definitely one of the more diverse ones. With their two categories of submarines, those for a nuclear-propelled attack and those that deal exclusively with missiles, they are ready to save the day any time of the year. Generally, their area of operation is relatively close to home which results in them monitoring the Mediterranean Sea, the Northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean but there are times where they must travel further away and keep an eye on places that are further out like French Polynesia, the West Indies, and Mayotte. In their repertoire, they have four strategic missile submarines which fall under the Le Triumphant class while the rest are all Rubis/Améthyste ones which are powered by nuclear energy. However, the later will soon be replaced by the SSN Barracuda, which is definitely one scary machine. In a nutshell, it can dive to depths of 350m, carry 18 missiles in a mixed load, carry a total of sixty people and displace 4,100 tonnes so if you're planning on pissing off France in 2017 the best advice is to not.
4 Greece — 12 Submarines
When it comes to the Greek naval force and the submarines that they use, it's safe to say that they are not using the most updated equipment out there. When you take into consideration that their youngest submarine, the Salamis, was commissioned in 1998 and how much the world has changed since then, you can't help but be a little worried about the well being of their country. A really funny thing about it is that their entire fleet is brought to you by the Germans which they are now suing because four of the submarines have never sailed! The initial arrangement was a symbol of the country's financial woes and the fact that the ships that they ordered remained unfinished 15 years after they were ordered does not bode well for the Germans in any way whatsoever. Then again, in times of financial dismay maybe winning the law suit will actually bode well for them because, let's face it, they can definitely use the extra few million dollars that would generate as a result.
3 Turkey — 12 Submarines
Most countries upgrade their submarines either very early on in their lives, typically when they first acquire them, or just buy new ones once the old ones have become obsolete but Turkey is unlike any other country out there. Instead of following in the footsteps of others, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries has called for what they call a mid-life modernization of their U209 class submarines the TCG Doğanay and TCG Dolunay. While they may not have disclosed what the exact changes will be, it will surely have to deal with their electrical systems, the functions that run the attack and search modules and the navigation system. The rest of them will seemingly be untouched.
This may seem like a smart move on Turkey's end but the oldest submarines are Atilay 209 type 1200s which were launched anytime between the mid-1970s to late 1980s! Presumably, they work well for whatever they're used for but when you're upgrading the oldest of the bunch and leaving the rest unscathed it's hard to fathom why they chose to do it, especially all things considered. Sure, they have the upgraded version of Atilay class submarines, the Preveze class, which are apparently stealthy beyond belief and the Gür class with their "new" and improved systems but why not just opt for something from this century? Again, if it works for them then who are we to judge, but there's a big difference between being economically savvy and just plain cheap and, especially when the well being of your country is at stake, sometimes the expenditure is worth the dent in your bank account.
9. The United Kingdom - 14 Submarines
Britain has a reputation of being one of the most powerful counties in the world but also one that doesn't engage in combat on a regular basis... or so we think. On the United Kingdom's Navy website, they seem to be putting a great emphasis on the importance of the submarine portion of their fleet because it offers stealth, flexibility and a means to protect freedom around the world. Sure, these characteristics, and all of the others that were mentioned, are true but it makes you wonder about what's going on beneath the surface. With two different classes of submarines and three subcategories total, they can go into any battle and not think twice about it. The Trafalgar class and the Astute class are what they call "Fleet Submarines" which are basically those that can dive very deeply and complete a wide variety of tasks. This can then be compared to their "Ballistic Submarines" whose main focus is on nuclear warfare. You would think that this would be the perfect balance but The Daily Mail released an article stating that they only had one nuclear submarine on active duty because the rest were out of commission for the time being and who knows when they'll be up and running again! But, that doesn't mean that they're not prepared to go into battle to protect the nation that they love, so engage at your own risk.
8. India — 15 Submarines
Considering that the areas surrounding the Indian Ocean have two-thirds of the world's crude oil, half of the traffic caused by shipping containers and a third of its cargo traffic, it's easy to see why India would be upping the ante... especially with China's direct influence on the area that is expanding daily. But, what about the sheer quality of their fleet? Well, they're working on it. A majority of their submarines are either over or quickly reaching age that dictates the limits of their functionality which means that their artillery is currently undergoing a facelift, so to speak. After the horrific events of 2013 that involved an explosion of the INS Sindhurakshak which evidently left 18 dead, those working for the government led by Modi have taken the necessary steps to try and avoid this sort of catastrophe from ever happening again. And, it seems to be working because in November 2015, India Today was proud to report that they were the last ones standing in a high profile battle simulation, MALABAR, against the United States of America and Japan!
7. South Korea — 17 Submarines
South Korea is no stranger to war but with the ever changing sociopolitical environment and the increased possibility of threats that this independent country faces, especially in regards to their North Korean counterpart, their Navy finally established their submarine sector in 2015 and has quickly become one of the biggest submarine fleets in the world. In their current artillery, they have nine diesel-electric Type 209s which are based on the German model and made locally as well as seven Type 214s that run via a hybrid diesel-electric fuel cell system with air-independent propulsion. The most recent addition to their flotilla is a stealth submarine of the Son Won II-class which they launched on April 7, 2016. In addition, they pride themselves on the efficiency that their soldiers are trained with because they have a one shot, one kill sort of mentality. When you put everything together, their fleet may be young but that doesn't mean that they'll shy away from any battle that life throws their way. They fought for their country once and will do it again if the tides turn in that direction.
6. Japan — 18 Submarines
Japan and China may have been at odds for some time now but they have never really had the need to bring in the military but, if they did, China would definitely have quite an arsenal to deal with. They may not have always had the biggest fleet but due to the evolution that is transpiring either due to recent events or those which have yet to unfold, they are slowly but surely making their way up the latter. The weaponized submarines that the world should fear the most, however, are their diesel-electric non-nuclear Soryu-class ones. Due to their four independent air-propulsion systems, they are able to remain submerged longer than most other submarines of the same class while its weapon capabilities are unlike anything that most of the world has ever seen before. If that wasn't enough, thanks to the advanced analytical systems installed in their vessels the members of the crew are experts in detecting the movements and whereabouts of their enemies solely based on the sounds that they are emanating. So, just be careful and try not to piss off the Japanese because you'll probably not live enough to tell the tale.
5. Iran — 24 Submarines
Iran may not have always been seen as a very advanced country but in the recent years they have undergone a wide array of industrial developments which have now put them on the map as a force to be reckoned with. With the shallow depths and narrow lanes of the Arabian Gulf and other bodies of water that surround them, Iranian submarines are able to take advantage of the natural conditions and skillfully sink all kinds of ships that are resting on the water's surface and that's what makes them so dangerous. However, unlike most countries which use nuclear submarines Iran only uses diesel-electric powered ones. This is because they are virtually undetectable unless they are moving and, while they may not have as much range as their counterpart, sometimes stealth is a better asset to have than range. Besides, it's not like they don't have more locally made submarines on the way. While a lot of the details regarding this particular project may not have been released to the general public, the Fateh class of submarines that are currently in development will have a longer endurance than the rest and have the ability to carry a larger payload. Pair that with the heavy emphasis that they will soon be having on underwater warfare and the rest of the world can definitely start to have a major problem on their hands.
2 China — 54 Submarines
Due to the vast amounts of weapons that China has readily available for use in the air, on the land, and both on and under the water, it is quickly becoming one of the biggest triple threats that the world has ever seen and they don't seem to be backing down anytime soon. With the increased interest in submarines, by 2029 they will apparently have upwards of seventy attack boats and who know how many underwater vessels which means that they are more than covered on all fronts. Currently, however, they have five nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ones that carry ballistic missiles and over fifty which are powered by a diesel-electric engine. So, while most countries are seeing a vast reduction regarding the number of submarines that their naval fleet have, China has decided to go all out and make sure that they are covered on all angles, both in the literal and symbolic sense.
3. Russia — 70 Submarines
Out of every country mentioned in this list, Russia is probably the one who poses the most immediate threat. Once President Vladimir Putin came into power, Russia has spent a lot of their military efforts improving upon their flotilla of attack submarines and they're just about to finish off the tests and add another one to their arsenal. The K-329 Severodvinsk is a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine completed some operational testing and will soon be launched into combat training missions. They also have a few more that will spawn in the near future that are just as, if not more, deadly than the Severodvinsk. Russia has also gotten the United States a little on edge due to their proximity to the country while in both submarines and air planes which were a little too close for comfort. While the question remains if the United States, Scotland, Scandinavia and the like will have to go against Russia as a means of self-defense, chances are that if they do it will not be a pretty sight on either end.
2. North Korea — 71 Submarines
When it comes to warfare via the application of their submarine fleet, North Korea is in the strangest state because while they may have quite a large amount of submarines, their undeniable age puts them at a great disadvantage. Considering that their Romeo ships possess Soviet technology from the 1950s and the rest aren't much better, it means that their submarines cannot outlast those deployed by their enemies. Even with their newer Sang-O submarines which were locally made and developed to be implemented into their special forces division and those of the Yono-class, their midget submarines, when you come down to it there really isn't that much there. Sure, they may be able to leave a dent here and there and adequately guard their coastline but they would be screwed if they had to go out into open water. When you can only stay submerged for three days before having to come up for air and are running on outdated technology, there is only so much that you can do before deciding that it's time for an upgrade and, well, maybe it should be.
1 United States of America — 72 Submarines
The United States Navy corps is definitely one of the most feared versions of the Armed Forces out there and with their silent but deadly approach the sentiment is completely understandable. They depend on nuclear-powered submarines and have three different classes of them which are: the Los Angeles which are used as their fast attack submarines, the Seawolf which are quiet, fast, have exceptional armor and the most advanced sensors as well as the USS Jimmy Carter which can carry the biggest payload. They have forty, three and twenty-nine of each submarine, respectively. After the Los Angeles class submarines retire, they will then be replaced by twelve Virginia class submarines, all armed with features geared toward improving their fighting and movement capabilities. The United States Navy is known as the Silent Service because they tends to keep their battles under wraps and go in and do the job while still remaining undetected, all with incredibly high standards of course. However, while some countries like Japan and Iran are focusing on improving their fleet, the United States will be reducing theirs and, if the necessary precautions aren't made, that can mean some bad news for the USA.