Australia has recently canceled a multibillion-dollar order for diesel-powered submarines from France in favor of nuclear-powered vessels from the United States and Britain, triggering an unprecedented diplomatic dispute between the Allies.
Canberra on Wednesday lifted the $ 66 billion order when it announced it was joining a new security alliance – called AUKUS – with the United States and Britain in an apparent attempt to counter China.
France has since recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia, saying this was a “stab in the back”. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in an interview on TV 2 in France rejected “duality, contempt and lies” behind the Australian move.
What is the difference between the French submarines and those that Britain and the United States will supply? And is a nuclear-powered submarine better than a conventional one?
Types of submarines
Submarines can be either diesel-electric or nuclear-powered. Both types can contain nuclear warheads.
Here’s how they differ.
Diesel electric submarines use electric motors charged by diesel engines to move. These engines require air and fuel to function, which means they have to reappear more often, making them easier to detect.
Most submarines today are conventionally powered (diesel electric) and tend to be smaller and cheaper to maintain.
Nuclear-powered submarines run out of steam generated by a built-in nuclear reactor that turns the turbines. Having a power source that runs for so long means they can remain submerged for years, limiting their detection.
These tend to be larger but require more expensive infrastructure and maintenance.
Common submarine acronyms are listed below:
SS Submarine (sunken ship)
SSK Diesel electric attack submarine
SSN Nuclear-powered attack submarine
SSB Diesel-electric ballistic missile submarines
SSBN Nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines
Who has nuclear-powered submarines?
There are six countries with nuclear-powered submarines. Under the new security pact, the United States and Britain will enable Australia to become the seventh.
Australia has stressed that the nuclear-powered submarines do not mean they will carry nuclear warheads.
The first nuclear-powered submarine was built by the United States in 1954. The USS Nautilus was a 97 m (319-foot) vessel much larger than the diesel-electric submarines that preceded it. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), all of the United States’ 68 operational submarines are nuclear-powered, and 14 of them are strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched its first nuclear-powered submarine, the K-3 Leninsky Komsomol. Today, Russia has 49 submarines, including 29 nuclear-powered, 11 of which are capable of firing long-range ballistic missiles.
China built its first nuclear-powered submarine in 1974. With the world’s largest armed forces, China has increasingly worked to advance its naval capabilities. Beijing has at least 59 operational submarines, 12 are nuclear-powered and half of them are SSBNs.
Submarines per. Country
According to the IISS, 42 countries have at least 485 military submarines — mostly diesel-electric.
With 71 submarines, North Korea operates one of the world’s largest submarine fleets, of which at least 40 are older Sang-O and Sang-O II class coastal submarines.
North Korea has criticized the AUKUS agreement, calling it “extremely undesirable and dangerous” and warning of unspecified countermeasures if its security is undermined.
On September 15, South Korea, which has at least 18 of its own submarines, said it had successfully tested a submarine-based ballistic missile (SLBM), which became the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system.
Other countries that have tested or developed SLBMs, including China, France, India, North Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and have typically designed them to carry nuclear warheads.