French Navy’s Newest Nuclear Attack Submarine Suffren Arrives in Toulon

The French Navy’s first Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack submarine Suffren has arrived in Toulon, her future home port on July 28.

The submarine has now completed its initial series of sea trials which demonstrated the submarine’s “excellent behavior” at sea. The various sea trials of the Suffren carried out in the English Channel and in the Atlantic Ocean have ensured the performance of the platform, the navigation system (immersion, maneuverability, etc.) and the high-tech on-board equipment.

The submarine will now undergo the second phase of tests in the Mediterranean Sea which will be conducted by the French defense procurement agency DGA, French Navy, Naval Group and TechnicAtome. Naval Group is the overall prime contractor of the submarine program and TechnicAtome is the prime contractor for the nuclear reactor.

Construction of Suffren began in 2007 and the submarine was launched at Naval Group’s facility in Cherbourg, France on July 12 last year. The boat is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year.

Barracuda class SSNs

Barracuda class (also called Suffren class after the lead ship of the class) is a class of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs; French: Sous-marins nucléaires d’attaque, SNA) being developed for the French Navy.

Launched in 1998 by the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA), the Barracuda program renews the Navy’s SSN component currently composed of six Rubis class SSNs commissioned from the early 1980s. The associated development contract was notified in December 2006.

Naval Group is the overall prime contractor of the submarine program and TechnicAtome is the prime contractor for the nuclear reactor. The French Defence Procurement Agency ( Direction générale de l’armement, DGA) is in charge of the overall program, with the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives, CEA) for the nuclear reactor.

Barracuda SSNs will use technologies from the French Navy’s currently operational Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), including pump-jet propulsion.

SNA Suffren
French Navy’s first Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), Suffren, during her sea trials.

The submarines will have a length of 99 meters, a diameter of 8.8 meters, a surfaced displacement of 4,700 tonnes and an underwater displacement of 5,300 tonnes.

The boats will be powered by a 50MW K15 pressurized water reactor derived from the reactors on board the Triomphant-class SSBNs and Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier. They will have two propulsion turbines, two turbo generators and two electric motors driving a single ducted propeller (pump-jet). The SSNs will have a maximum speed of about 25 knots and a maximum diving depth of more than 350 m.

The Barracuda-class submarines will be armed with torpedo-tube-launched cruise missile, MdCN (Missile de Croisière Naval, Naval Cruise Missile). MdCN is the sea-launched variant of the SCALP EG low-observable air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) developed by MBDA Missile Systems. The missile has an operational range of over 1,000 km (620 mi) and can be fired against strategic land targets.

The submarines will be also armed with F21 Artemis heavyweight torpedoes, Exocet SM39 Block2 anti-ship missiles and FG29 mines.

Barracudas will have a crew complement of 65. In support of special operations missions, they may also accommodate up to 12 commandos, while carrying their equipment in a dry deck shelter attached aft of the sail. The dry deck shelter will also allow the deployment of underwater vehicles.

The primary missions of the Barracuda-class vessels will include anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare (ASuW, ASW), land attack, intelligence gathering, crisis management and special operations missions.

The French Navy plans to have six SNA Barracuda in service by 2030 and the first four is scheduled to be delivered over the period of 2020-2025. Considering that the lifespan of Suffren type SSNs will be more than 35 years, these new submarines will serve the French Navy at least up to 2060, making it one of the major French weapon systems of this century.



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