The Underwater Race: The Submarine Arms Race Sparks a Rising Market

The global market for submarines is experiencing significant growth, driven by investment from various countries in their submarine fleets, according to a report by GlobalData.

Submarines: a growing global demand

GlobalData forecasts an increase in the global submarine market, rising from $30 billion in 2023 to $45.6 billion in 2033. India, China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States invest in next-generation ballistic missile-launching submarines and other advanced underwater technologies.

A recent example is the AUKUS pact, which will allow Australia to have its first nuclear-powered submarines. In addition, the US Navy is working on future Columbia-class submarines and SSN(X) attack submarines that could appear in the 2030s.

The acquisition of multi-mission submarines and the ability to deploy underwater drones from mother ships are trends that will drive the design and development of next-generation submarines in the coming years.

The Underwater Race: The Submarine Arms Race Sparks a Rising Market

Russia and the United States: leaders in submarine technology

The United States and Russia have both historically been at the forefront of submarine development. Their submarines are among the most modern and powerful in the world, and both countries have made substantial contributions to the advancement of submarine technology throughout the years.

Russia has made great strides in submarine technology in recent years, producing innovative vessels like the Yasen-class assault submarine and the Borei-class ballistic missile submarine. These subs have cutting-edge sensors, communication systems, and weaponry and propulsion technologies.

However, the United States has a leg up on the competition when it comes to creating cutting-edge submarine technology. Both the Virginia-class attack submarine and the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine are examples of some of the most cutting-edge and powerful submarines in the world, both of which are part of the US Navy’s submarine force.

Both nations have put considerable resources into improving their submarine fleets over the years, making them formidable opponents. As a result, the two nations engaged in a heated rivalry, especially during the Cold War when they were both striving to create the most cutting-edge submarine technology.

The United States and Russia continue to vie for technological superiority in the realm of submarines. Both countries are currently developing new, more capable submarines. Both nations want to keep their strategic edge and stay ahead of their rivals. Therefore this rivalry is likely to last for decades.

The report highlights the growing importance of advanced noise reduction technology and multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRV) ballistic missiles on submarines to enhance deterrence capabilities.

According to Aamir Chowdry, an analyst at GlobalData, submarines are better suited for deterrence roles than air and ground platforms due to their high survivability and resilience.

Countries like the United States, Russia and China will continue to be the dominant players in the global submarine market. However, India and Australia are also investing in advanced submarine capabilities.

The Underwater Race: The Submarine Arms Race Sparks a Rising Market
Russian kilo-class submarine

Where is China in this? 

Submarine technology is another area where China has made major advances in recent years, and it is quickly catching up to Russia and the United States. Advanced submarines like the Type 093 assault submarine and the Type 094 ballistic missile submarine have been added to China’s growing submarine force in recent years.

Like Russia and the United States, China has devoted considerable resources to improving submarine technology, particularly in weaponry, propulsion, and communication. 

Submarines can remain submerged for much longer because of innovative technology developed in China, such as air-independent propulsion systems.

However, China has a way to go before its submarine technology can compete with Russia and the United States. China has some of Asia’s most cutting-edge submarine technology, but even its best models are behind those of Russia and the United States.

Additionally, Russia and the United States have been developing cutting-edge submarine technology for longer, giving them an edge in terms of experienced submarine crews and support staff. This is a huge benefit for them in terms of running and maintaining submarines.

Although China has made significant advances in submarine technology in recent years, it is still behind both Russia and the United States. China has been investing heavily in cutting-edge submarine technology and has a rapidly expanding submarine fleet, so it is certain to maintain its position as a global leader in this field in the years to come.

advanced conventional submarines

Due to high acquisition costs, lack of technical knowledge and strict export control regulations, several countries opt for advanced conventional submarines equipped with AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) to increase their submarine warfare capabilities.

These submarines can operate submerged for long periods and are equipped with specialized weapons and sensors to conduct ground attacks, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and support Special Forces operations.

Global security implications

The growth of the submarine market will have significant implications for global security, especially in functions such as naval deterrence, security of sea lanes of communication (SLOC) and littoral operations.

Emerging powers are also investing in submarines, but the world’s leading powers will continue to operate the largest submarine flotillas.

Summary

In short, the submarine market is experiencing sustained growth driven by investment in submarine fleets and advanced technologies.

The United States, Russia and China will continue leading this market, while countries like India and Australia are committed to improving their submarine capabilities. This trend will have a considerable impact on global security and naval deterrence.