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Naval Group commences sea trials for Suffren nuclear attack sub

Naval Group commences sea trials for Suffren nuclear attack sub

Naval Group has announced that Suffren, the lead of the nuclear-powered Barracuda Class fast attack submarines (SSN), has begun sea trials with the support of the French Navy and French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA).

Naval Group has announced that Suffren, the lead of the nuclear-powered Barracuda Class fast attack submarines (SSN), has begun sea trials with the support of the French Navy and French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA).

The sea trials will enable the DGA and the French Navy to test the performances of the submarine at sea before the delivery of Suffren to the French Navy later this year.

This series of sea trials follows the divergence of the nuclear reactor that took place in December 2019 and the dock tests carried out since the launch of the submarine on 12 July 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.

Pierre Eric Pommellet, Naval Group’s chairman and CEO, welcomed the milestone for the Barracuda program, saying, "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.

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 manoeuvrability;
  • Performance of the combat system, tactical weapons and all the high-tech equipment that are on board of this new generation of nuclear attack submarine; and
  • The full performance of its operational capacities.

The Suffren is the first of class, intended to replace the generation of Rubis Class 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.

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.

"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," Pommellet added. 

Since 16 March, 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 per cent the number of people onboard.

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. 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.

Naval Group's Shortfin Barracuda design, which serves as the basis for the Royal Australian Navy's new Attack Class, Shortfin Barracuda is a conventionally-powered variant of the nuclear-powered Barracuda fast attack submarine currently under construction for the French Navy.

The 12 vessels will be built by Naval Group at a specialist submarine shipyard at Osborne, South Australia. The Commonwealth government’s Australian Naval Infrastructure program will support the development of the future submarine shipyards.

The Commonwealth government formally signed the strategic partnering agreement with Naval Group in February 2019 ahead of confirming the final design specifications and requirements for the Attack Class submarines.

The Attack Class will enter service with the Royal Australian Navy at a time when 50 per cent of the world’s submarines will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Stephen Kuper

Stephen Kuper

Steve has an extensive career across government, defence industry and advocacy, having previously worked for cabinet ministers at both Federal and State levels.