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World’s Most Heavily Armed Naval Ships

We had previously done a video comparing world’s least armed ships, by measuring how many missiles they carry per tonne, using the metric we called Tonne per Missile. The argument is that if a 10000 tonne vessel has 20 missiles, while it can boast of higher survivability, better range and on station time, the 20 missiles will at the most hit 20 targets. Similarly, a 5000 tonne ship with the same 20 missiles can hit the same 20 targets while being cheaper. Basically combat potential depends on the missiles carried way more than other factors. Today, we will be comparing the heavier end of the spectrum, trying to identify the most heavily armed ones. Unlike last time, we will be comparing the number of missile cells and short range SAM mounts because all but 1 of the ships in this video feature universal vertical launch system cells, and all parties either field or are developing multi-pack capability. That means a single cell can carry multiple missiles. Because all but 1 of the ships have this capability, they are directly comparable. We are also only comparing ships currently in production or built in the last decade, again 1 of these ships is an exception. Dont forget that lower the rating, better the ship.

Type 055

These Chinese ships were designed to be a 1 to 1 counter of the American Arleigh Burke class. As of 2024, they seem to lack fielded multi-pack capability, ballistic missile defense that is as good as the one on Aegis among other things, but these are still extremely potent vessels. They displace around 12,500 tonnes and feature 112 VLS cells, plus a 24 cell Chinese copy of the American RAM. This means they carry a total of 136 missiles and VLS cells, and their tonne per missile rating is around 111. Thus they are slightly less heavily armed than the Arleigh Burke which is later in the list.

For naysayers, yes I mixed missiles and VLS cells here because all Burkes can be easily fitted with a RAM mount at any point in their lives, the Chinese have their own copy of the RAM, so these ships are still directly comparable.

Arleigh Burke class destroyer

Built to fill in the role of a lower end Aegis destroyer to replace the ancient Charles F. Adams class, and to supplement the excellent Ticonderoga class cruisers, these ships are benchmark destroyers. Thanks to the updated SPY-6 radar on the latest Flight 3 Burkes, these ships still hold the title of the best air defense asset ever put to sea. On a 9500 tonne hull, they feature 96 VLS cells, bringing their tonne per missile rating to 99. For comparison, on the lower end of the spectrum we have the Kolkata class which has a TPM rating of 154, about 50% higher.

Type 052D

This smaller Chinese Type 052D is an evolutionary design, based on the original Type 052 which had French systems and has been modified over successive variants to sport Chinese gear. It is also the smallest ship in this comparison, as it displaces only 7500 tonnes but sports 64 UVLS cells and 24 Chinese copy of the RAM. For a total of 88 missiles, its small displacement gives it the second highest tonne per missile rating in this comparison at 86, even lower than the Burke.

Just want to drop a special mention of the Admiral Gorshkov class, an even smaller hull at 4500 tonnes featuring 48 VLS cells, which can already feature quad packed missiles, have a rating of 96 tonnes per missile.

Sejong the Great Batch 1

First placed is the South Korean Sejong the Great Batch 1 class. Generally, the South Korean Sejong the Great class should have been clubbed with the Burkes, as they are nothing but enlarged Burkes. But thats the thing, because they are enlarged they feature additional VLS cells over the 96 in a Flight 3 Burke thanks to their larger tonnage value. They feature 80 cells of the American Mk 41 VLS, a further 48 cells of the South Korean KVLS. Thats not the end of it though, these ships have 16 South Korean anti-ship missiles in angled launchers, plus 21 RAM missiles in a single RAM mount. This brings the total to 165 missiles plus cells, on a 11000 tonne hull. Their rating turns out to be 67. But why did I mention just the Batch 1, because the Batch 2 currently under construction features fewer but larger VLS cells.

Kirov class

And you are wondering, whats the exception. For the keen eyed among you, I have not mentioned the Kirov class battlecruisers at all. I havent mentioned them yet simply because they dont carry any universal VLS cells due to their vintage. All their missile silos are designed for one particular type of missile. Hence this ship is the exception. Also, we are only going to talk about the Peter the Great, and not Admiral Nakhimov. This is because as of late March 2024, no defenitive pictures of the Nakhimov’s VLS have been published for us to gauge its combat prowess. In the future, we might redit this article to add it. For now, Peter the Great features a total of 96 cells for its naval S300 air defense system, 20 silos of the P-700 Granit supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, and 128 short range naval Tor missiles for a total of 244 missiles. This is where things get nutty. Each of the 6 Kashtan CIWS modules feature 8 ready to fire missiles and 24 reloads for a total of 192 missiles. The total number of missiles carried on this ship is 436 for a tonne per missile rating of 55 tonnes per missile at 24000 tonnes standard load, that is half of a Burke. But then again, context is important. While this Kirov can carry 436 missiles, the Burke’s 96 VLS cells can be quad packed allowing it to carry 384 missiles total, plus 8 angled launchers for Harpoons can be added. Thus, the same 9500 tonne hull can theoretically carry 392 missiles with a rating of 24 tonnes per missile.

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