French Navy’s Suffren Nuclear Attack Submarine Performs First Dive

The French Navy’s first Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, Suffren, has performed her first dive at sea, Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced.

The first dive for Suffren was conducted by the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction générale de l’armement, “Directorate General of Armaments”).

DGA said in a statement that the sea trials and tests will last several months and will confirm the robustness and efficiency of the submarine before its delivery to the French Navy which is planned later this year.

Construction of Suffren began in 2007. The submarine was launched during a ceremony at Naval Group’s facility in Cherbourg, France on July 12 last year. The launching ceremony was attended by Emmanuel Macron, the French President, and Florence Parly, the Minister of the Armed Forces.

In December 2019, TechnicAtome and Naval Group performed the divergence of the nuclear reactor onboard the submarine.

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.

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.

French Navy Barracuda SSN
Rendering of a French Navy Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN). Credit: Naval Group.



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