They could literally kill billions of people.
While they have thankfully never been used during a shooting war, nuclear-powered submarines carrying nuclear-tipped missiles are the most deadly weapons mankind has ever devised. In some cases—as in the case of the Ohio-class submarine during the height of the Cold War—even a single vessel could reduce as many as 288 city-sized targets into radioactive ash in less than 30 minutes. Indeed, these vessel and their payloads could end human civilization in less time than it takes to order a pizza if a third world war were to break out.
In this article, we have picked five of the most capable nuclear-armed submarines that are either in service or will soon enter service. Older vessels such as the Soviet Union’s massive Project 941 Akula—known in the West as the Typhoon—are not included because those vessels have been largely retired and dismantled. Only Dmitriy Donskoy remains in service with the Russian Navy as a test vessel stripped of her ballistic missile armament.
Ohio-class Ballistic Missile Submarine
The United States Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine can carry 24 UGM-133 Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missiles that can each carry as many as twelve W88 475 kiloton thermonuclear warheads. With the sheer accuracy of the Mk5 reentry vehicle, which has a circular error of probability of less than 90 meters, the Ohio-class and its Trident II missiles have the capability to be used as first strike weapons. Under the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the United States expects to maintain a total of 14 Ohio-class submarines, with two in repair at any given time. These days, each Ohio carries 20 missiles for a total fleet of 240 deployed Trident IIs. As of 2016, nine Ohio-class submarines are deployed in the Pacific while another five are assigned to the Atlantic.