For the 46 years of the Cold War, the most feared Soviet naval weapon was the submarine. Initially, it was looked at as a threat to Western use of the Atlantic shipping lanes to reinforce and support Western Europe in the event of an assault. Subsequently, the development of Soviet submarines armed with strategic missiles became the number one naval threat to the West. How many submarines did the USSR build during the Cold War?
The Soviet emphasis on submarine development and construction predated the Cold War.1 In the late 1940s, Western military leaders feared that this interest, coupled with German U-boat technology made available to the Soviets and the very high priority given to rehabilitating Soviet shipyards, would lead to a massive force of Red submarines. U.S. Navy estimates indicated that by the 1960s the Soviets could have 1,200 or even 2,000 submarines of all types at sea. In 1948, a U.S. Navy admiral presented two assumptions in discussing these numbers: