North Korea possesses the world’s largest number of submarines, followed by the U.S., according to a U.S. online media outlet.Business Insider said that the North has a total of 78 regular and midget submarines, while the U.S. has 72 submarines. Its analysis is based on data from the Global Firepower, a military power evaluation organization.China ranked third with 69 submarines, followed by Russia with 63 submarines and Iran with 31 submarines. South Korea has only 14 submarines while Japan has 16 submarines, according to the BI analysis.
Business Insider pointed out that the North’s lead is merely because of the “pure numbers,” not the quality of its submarine fleets.“But these submarines are almost entirely unusable. A third of North Korea’s subs are noisy diesel-powered Romeos, which have been obsolete since 1961,” said BI in the article. “These submarines have a weapons range of only four miles, whereas a modern U.S. submarine has a weapons range of 150 miles.” Pyongyang is known to think of its submarine fleets as part of its asymmetric military capabilities to fight against its more affluent, well-equipped adversaries such as South Korea and the U.S.
In 2010, a North Korean midget submarine torpedoed the South Korean corvette Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies its responsibility, calling Seoul’s argument an outright fabrication. Since the incident, the South has beefed up its antisubmarine capabilities through measures including enhancing its submarine detection systems.