Being able to move at high speeds is one the most crucial features of modern nuclear-powered multirole submarines. A submarine needs to be fast to hunt down an enemy but also escape from an enemy’s anti-ship forces.
During the Cold War, the United States and the USSR fiercely competed for global military dominance, including in terms of underwater warfare. The best American and Soviet constructors and engineers invested much time and energy in developing cutting-edge submarines with outstanding specifications and capabilities.
Sputnik takes a look at the five fastest submarines ever built.
5. Los Angeles-class submarine
The USSR’s fastest nuclear-powered missile submarine could reach speeds of up to 28 knots (51.2 kilometers per hour) while a Los Angeles-class submarine has a maximum speed of 35 knots (64.82 kph). For a Soviet submarine, it was very difficult to escape when being chased by a Los Angeles-class sub in service since the 1970s.
4. Project 945 Barracuda
In order to keep a constant eye on NATO’s movements, the Barracuda-class submarines were designed to have a maximum speed of 35.15 knots (65.1 kilometers per hour). The main target of the project 945 Barracuda (NATO reporting name Sierra-I) nuclear-powered submarines was enemy strategic submarines and aircraft carrier groups. The first Barracuda entered service with the Soviet Navy in 1984.
3. Seawolf-class submarine
The Seawolf-class submarines have been the fastest American submarine in production. During trials, the submarine reached a maximum speed of 38 knots (70.38 kilometers per hour). The Seawolf-class multi-role nuclear-powered submarines were one the most expensive projects in the history of the US Navy. The cost of each of the three submarines built reached $3 billion.
Its expensiveness forced the Pentagon to wrap up the project and turn to the less expensive Virginia-class submarines.
2. Lira-class submarines
Its power-generating unit delivered 115 megawatts of thermal power, propelling the submarine to 41 knots (75.93 kilometers per hour). The Soviet project 705 Lira (NATO reporting name Alfa) was one of the most unusual class of submarines in the history of the Russian Navy. The Lira-class submarines were equipped with automatic command and control systems had a small crew of only 31.
1. Project Anchar
During trials in 1970, the submarine reached a maximum speed of 44.7 knots (82.78 kilometers per hour), a record which remains unbeaten to this day. The Soviet submarine K-162 Anchar was the world’s fastest submarine. It was armed with anti-ship cruise missiles.
Its speed capability had a downside – the extremely high level of noise the submarine produced at high speeds. This disadvantage made the submarine tactically useless, in addition to its exorbitant cost. The project was rendered futile.