Unlike the all-nuclear American submarine fleet, the newest Russian B-274 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky war submersible of the Varshavyanka class is diesel-powered.
Specialist H I Sutton pointed out in Forbes magazine that while Russia operates nuclear submarines, Russia still produces conventional submarines, which sets its naval force apart from the US.
“The last conventionally powered submarines in the U.S. Navy were the Barbel Class built between 1956-58. Thereafter only nuclear powered submarines have been built,” Sutton said.
As the expert explained, the reason for this would be the greater range of action that nuclear submarines have during their operations.
“NNuclear submarines have virtually unlimited range so the main limitation on its endurance is the people. Patrols of over 1 month are common, and sometimes much longer. This compares to weeks for most conventional submarines,” said the expert.
In addition, Sutton added that such a feature would be necessary for the far-reaching operations of the American naval media across the oceans.
Also at speed, atomic propulsion submarines are faster, while their nuclear reactor provides enough energy for massive sweeps of their sonar.
While on the one hand such factors favor the action of open sea nuclear submarines , on the other hand conventional submarines are not without advantages.
“The first and most obvious strengths of conventional submarines are that they are smaller and thus cheaper to build. And cheaper to crew. And they can turn off almost all systems and sit silently on the sea floor, making them extremely difficult to detect,” Sutton explained.
Given that the supposed invisibility of a submarine is one of its main advantages in a naval conflict, the difficult detection of conventional submarines further accentuates this positive point.
Moreover, according to Sutton, geography has led Russia to keep most of its submarines close to its coast, making the use of conventional submarines suitable for its patrols.
“So the Russian Navy still values the more limited conventionally powered submarines to complement their nuclear powered boats. The quietness of these boats may give them advantages in some scenarios, particularly in shallower waters,” he said.
Thus, for Sutton, the US has no Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky analogue in its arsenal.