Can You Buy A Military Submarine?

So you want to be like Popeye the Sailor Man but more so with the historical military flair? Well, there’s a lot to cover on the subject matter so let’s submerge into what you need to know about owning military submarines.

You can own a military submarine. However, you cannot operate it as a warship with weapons and they can either be rare to find or nonfunctioning. Also, if you do find one for sale they can be very expensive.

While you may impress your friends, as stated before they are generally rare to find and can be damaged or unusable. One thing is for sure, your fellow collector friends will either be amazed or super confused on how deep your love for military memorabilia goes.

Where Can You Buy A Military Sub?

While it can feel easy sometimes to simply do an online search for a second-hand submarine, the military surplus submarine industry is difficult to find, and narrowing down what you’re looking for can be a challenge. You will typically find submarines specifically for tourist attractions and marine research. Though decommissioned military submarines from war will be on the market with more discretion.

Some submarines such as a yellow semi-submarine sea discoverer, built in 2006, would go for around $300,000 while a two-dive sub built in 2003 goes for about $115,000. source

While many submarine websites do not boast a professional look, there is some useful information and prices with what is displayed on the submarine market here.

I have also found your typical findings of submarines with their own websites attached for sale or similar options available:

  • Two man submarine, built in 1986 for $400,000 found here.
  • Three-man fully-submersible submarine built in 2001 (rebuilt in 2005) for $90,000 found here.
  • Second hand research/ tourist submarine, operation depth of 12,000ft for $5,000,000 found here.

What To Know Before Buying A Military Sub

It needs to be said that you will not be finding a US nuclear boat like the SSN or SSBNs built after 1958. The US has already sold their old diesel-powered subs to other countries as all the other diesel boats are extremely rare to find. Your best bet at finding a military sub that’s still intact is at a museum. There also won’t be anything more than a 2-4 person capacity for sale.

You need to also consider the transportation of the submarine, maintenance, and possible spare parts as the submarine will have replacement needs. The Navy also won’t have an operator’s manual though you should have an SSN-594 Permit class license to operate a submarine and/or having previous knowledge on submarine workings overall.

How Submarines Work

How Does a Submarine Submerge?

Subs can float on the surface due to the ballast tanks of air that are used. When the time to submerge approaches, there is a function for the submarine to let the valves at the top of the ballast tanks open. This makes the submarine heavier to the point of being able to submerge. Typically, it takes about four people to drive a submarine no matter if on the surface or underwater.

The person in charge is the Diving Officer who oversees every action on board. The front of the sub is managed by the helmsman and planesman as they steer left, right, up, and down using the controls in adjusting rudders and diving planes. 

Finally, the fourth member, the Chief of the Watch, operates the BCP (Ballast Control Panel) controlling the submerging and surfacing of the submarine. They also maintain buoyancy and trim when the sub is underwater.

How Does a Submarine Surface?

A submarine can surface by what is called “blowing to the surface.” This is when the high-pressure air is blown into the ballast tanks in order to replace the seawater currently in place. This method displaces the seawater enough to make the submarine resurface.

Another way is diving to the surface as the sub planes along the stem, bow, and superstructure in angling them. Low-pressure air forces the seawater out of the ballast tanks to keep it floating. This causes the sub to rise and cruise once surfaced.

How Deep Can You Go in a Submarine?

According to the Navy, most military submarines can submerge deep to approximately eight hundred feet underwater. Though they can’t go as deep as modern research subs that are specifically used to explore activity on the seafloor level.

How Long Can Submarines Stay Underwater?

By Navy standards, nuclear-powered submarines can stay submerged for a long time. Air isn’t necessarily the main problem with submarines it is more so keeping the air clean. Your main concerns are how long food and supplies last.

However, the diesel-powered submarines, not being used by the Navy, have a limited amount of days they could be submerged. They had to only rely on batteries and electric motors to stay underwater. They often would have to resurface and use something called “a snorkel mast” for the submarine’s diesel engines to recharge the batteries. This also needed to be done while they exchanged the air inside for fresh air.

Where You Can See Military Submarines

When visiting Navy-owned museums, you may find answers to your research on submarine purchases. The following two museums listed below feature old military submarines and other underwater warfare objects. If you have questions on what you should do when buying one or are looking for other general knowledge, it’s best to consol with current and past veteran operators first.

It can definitely feel as if you are being torn between spending lots of money and experiencing the joy of owning a valuable military collectible. As always you want to be careful when making large purchases. There is a difference between really wanting to collect for the sake of collecting and having a purpose behind the collecting. Either way, the research in finding a military submarine can be interesting overall.

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