The first functional submarines propelled by engines appeared, roughly, with the arrival of the 20th century. On the First World War the submarine weapon was already consolidated thanks to the degree of perfection achieved on its construction, being specially notable - and for many years -, the German models. Already during these years it was understood that the new weapon should do something else than launching torpedoes against enemy vessels, and so appeared the first minelaying submarines. These and their descendants would be actively used during the two world wars.

During the interwar period submarines were perfected in many aspects and generally increased their size and operativity, but at the beginning of the Second World War they were technically similar to their predecessors from the Great War. The German models continued being the most reputed and feared ones. During their hunting campaign on the Atlantic War, the Allied merchant fleet would lose roughly 5000 ships for a total of about 13 millions of gross register tonnes. In the Pacific War, the also very perfected American submarines would achieve sound results as well: 2117 Japanese merchant ships sunk for a total of roughly 8 millions of tonnes.

Unfortunately for the submarine weapon, the interwar years had brought much greater advances in the field of aeronautics and electronics. Modern aircraft fitted with increasingly effective detection devices were the doom of hundreds of crews, for which their vessels would become their tombs. This situation brought new advances in the field, by the hand of Germany, which would keep the supremacy of submarine technology until the end of the war. From these efforts were born the first "true" submarines, chiefly represented by the Type XXI, capable of remaining submerged for longer periods thanks to the "snorkel" and a particularly large amount of electrical batteries.

In contrast, after the war the lead was taken by United States and the other main actors which had joined forces against Germany. The first one presented to the world the first nuclear-propelled submarines in the mid 1950s and one lustrum later a large fleet, including models capable of launching ballistic missiles - while in immersion -, was already in construction. The efforts of the Soviet Union to keep pace with these changes generally gave results of lower quality, but twenty years later the country would reach parity with its American antagonist thanks to a greater diversity of good - if not excellent - models.

Meanwhile the nuclear submarine fleet of the NATO would be complemented by the British and French equivalents. These countries started to build their first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) during the mid 1960s, to become part of the western "deterrence force" which had to balance the nuclear power of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Germany has never adopted nuclear propulsion, nor to mention nuclear armament, but nowadays this country still leads the industry of the conventional submarine weapon.

Ohio class SSBN submarine

American OHIO class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine

Los Angeles class SSN submarine

American LOS ANGELES class nuclear-powered attack submarine

USS Nautilus attack submarine

American nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Nautilus

Tench class attack submarine

American TENCH class attack submarine in 1945

Gato class attack submarine

American GATO class attack submarine circa 1942

Trafalgar class SSN submarine

British TRAFALGAR class nuclear-powered attack submarine

Resolution class SSBN submarine

British RESOLUTION class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine

U class attack submarine

British U class attack submarine during the Second World War

L class attack submarine

British L class attack submarine during the First World War

K class attack submarine

British K class steam-powered attack submarine

Swordfish attack submarine

British steam-powered attack submarine SWORDFISH

J class attack submarine

British J class attack submarine

E class attack submarine E class submarine

British E class attack submarines during the First World War

B class attack submarine

British B class attack submarine during the First World War

Rubis class SSN submarine

French RUBIS class nuclear-powered attack submarine

Le Redoutable class SSBN submarine

French LE REDOUTABLE class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine

Rubis minelayer submarine

French minelayer submarine RUBIS in 1943

Surcouf cruiser submarine

French cruiser submarine SURCOUF circa 1935

Type XXI attack submarine

German Type XXI attack submarine during the Second World War

Type VIIC attack submarine

German Type VIIC attack submarine during the Second World War

Type IXB attack submarine

German Type IXB attack submarine during the Second World War

Type UB III attack submarines

German Type UB III attack submarines during the First World War

Type UC II minelayer submarine

German Type UC II minelayer submarine circa 1917

Type U 151 cruiser submarine

German Type U 151 cruiser submarine during the First World War (circa 1917)

Type U 139 cruiser submarine

German Type U 139 cruiser submarine during the First World War (circa 1916)

Type U 31 attack submarine Type U 31 attack submarine

German Type U 31 attack submarine during the First World War

Platino attack submarine

Italian coastal attack submarine PLATINO during the Second World War

F class attack submarine

Italian F class coastal attack submarine during the First World War

Sierra class SSN submarine

Soviet/Russian SIERRA class nuclear-powered attack submarine

Typhoon class SSBN submarine

Soviet/Russian TYPHOON class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine

Oscar class SSN submarine

Soviet/Russian OSCAR class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine

Delta III class SSBN submarine

Soviet/Russian DELTA III class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine

Krab minelayer submarine

Russian minelayer submarine KRAB circa 1915

Akula attack submarine

Russian attack submarine AKULA circa 1910

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