The sea trials of the Suffren, the first Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine, have just begun. They will enable the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) and the French Navy to test the performances of the submarine at sea before her delivery later this year. A total of six Barracuda-class vessels will be added to the French Navy’s fleet by 2030.
“The first sea trial of the Suffren is a source of great pride for Naval Group employees and their partners. I am extremely grateful for the efforts of our teams. They made it possible to start these trials while respecting strict compliance with the health and safety measures to protect the crew which is partly constituted of Naval Group members. These trials are additional proof of Naval Group’s total commitment to the French Navy, the French defence procurement agency (DGA) as well as to the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA), TechnicAtome and the other industrial actors of the defence sector. Together, we are conducting the sea trials that will lead to the delivery of the Suffren and committed to the production of the other five submarines of the series, which is a major priority for the company”, declared Pierre Eric Pommellet, Naval Group’s Chairman and CEO.
The first sea trial, an important step for the Barracuda program
This series of sea trials follows the divergence of the nuclear reactor which took place in December 2019 and the dock tests carried out since the launch of the submarine on July 12, 2019. The operations successively took place in the assembly hall as well as in the dry and water-filled docks to test equipment and systems, such as the combat system. Trials are conducted by joint teams from Naval Group, TechnicAtome and French authorities.
Sea trials constitute a crucial phase of qualification of on-board installations for a nuclear submarine and are aimed to ensure:
– water-tightness in underwater environment and maneuverability,
– performance of the combat system, tactical weapons and all the high-tech equipment which are on board of this new generation of nuclear attack submarine
– the full performance of its operational capacities.
The Suffren is the first of class, intended to replace the generation of Ruby-type SSNs. Naval Group is in charge of the production of this series of submarine – from the design to the construction of the ship – and of the information systems, the manufacturing of the main components of the nuclear reactors as well as the maintenance of the ships in Toulon.
Responding to an industrial challenge in the midst of a health crisis
The SSN Suffren sea trials are a priority for the Ministry of Defence. Naval Group deployed a series of measures for the protection of the health and safety of the employees in order to continue the operations during the Covid-19 health crisis.
Since March 16 a series of security measures has been implemented – particularly for nuclear security – as part of Naval Group’s industrial continuity plan for the Cherbourg site and the Barracuda program.
Steps were also taken in conjunction with occupational healthcare authorities to the ensure health and safety of the team. Protocols include, for example, systematic compliance with hygiene and disinfection rules and the mandatory use of masks.
In addition, preventive self-isolation measures and screening tests have been carried out on all industrial, military and state members of the team taking part in the sea trials. Finally, the sea trials protocols were adapted, by reducing by 20% the number of people onboard.
The Suffren: a technology and capacity leap
The Suffren is one of the world’s stealthiest submarines. This discretion, combined with her advanced detection capabilities, guarantees her acoustic superiority.
For the first time, thanks to the Suffren-class submarines, the French Navy will have a deep strike capability with MBDA’s naval cruise missiles (NCM). The latest generation of SSNs also allows the discreet deployment of Special Forces underwater, in particular thanks to its “divers hatch” and the optional carrying of a dry deck shelter allowing for the deployment of underwater vehicles. More discreet, with increased autonomy and better capacities, manoeuvrable and mobile, the Suffren has the latest generation of systems, including a centralised and more automated driving.
The technical characteristics of the Suffren-class submarines
Surface displacement: 4,700 tonnes
Diving displacement: 5,200 tonnes
Length: 99 metres
Diameter: 8.8 metres
Armament: naval cruise missiles, F21 heavy-weight wire-guided torpedoes, modernised
Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles
Hybrid propulsion: pressurised water reactor derived from the reactors on board the
Triomphant-type SSBN and Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier, two propulsion turbines,
two turbo generators and two electric motors
Crew: 65 crew members + commandos
Availability: > 270 days per year