US, Russia have the largest nuclear-powered submarine fleets

US, Russia have the largest nuclear-powered submarine fleets
The US has the largest nuclear-powered submarine fleet (67). Russia the second-largest (31) and China the third-largest (12). / bne IntelliNews
By Anna Fleck for Statista March 15, 2023

Australia is to become the seventh country in the world to introduce nuclear-powered submarines to its naval fleet, as part of a newly brokered deal between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (AUKUS), reports Statista.

The US has said it will sell Australia three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines in the early 2030s, with the option to purchase an additional two. The Guardian reports that under the new so-called AUKUS partnership, the UK too could see a considerable increase in its deep sea vessels, almost doubling to a reported 19.

Data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies shows that the US has by far the largest nuclear-powered fleet worldwide. Russia has under half the number of nuclear-powered submarines, and China roughly half again. Nuclear-powered submarines do not necessarily mean nuclear-armed, but also those fuelled by a nuclear reactor rather than by diesel-electric propulsion.

The plan to bolster Australia’s naval defence comes amidst Western nations’ mounting anxiety over China’s plans for the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing has criticised the move, saying AUKUS is encouraging an arms race. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned in a press conference on Tuesday that the three countries are walking “further and further down the path of error and danger.”

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