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Naval Group officially delivers first nuclear-powered Barracuda sub

Naval Group officially delivers first nuclear-powered Barracuda sub

Naval Group has officially delivered the lead boat of the nuclear-powered Barracuda Class submarines, Suffren, to the French defence procurement agency (DGA) after the completion of a series of sea trials ahead of the formal delivery to the French Navy.

Naval Group has officially delivered the lead boat of the nuclear-powered Barracuda Class submarines, Suffren, to the French defence procurement agency (DGA) after the completion of a series of sea trials ahead of the formal delivery to the French Navy.

The Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly; General François Lecointre, Chief of the Armed Forces; the Delegate General for Armaments Joël Barre; Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of the Naval Staff; Victor Salvetti, Director Military Applications (DAM) at CEA; as well as the chairman and CEO of Naval Group Pierre Eric Pommellet; and Loïc Rocard, chairman and CEO of TechnicAtome, all welcomed this major milestone of the Barracuda program, in the presence of representatives from the politics, industry and military, including crew members.

Intended for the French Navy, the Suffren is the first in a series of six nuclear attack submarines (SNA) that will gradually replace the Ruby type SNAs currently in service, delivery of the Suffren took place in the presence of a small delegation of high personalities due to the health crisis. 


The delivery of the Suffren is a major milestone in the Barracuda program, which commits submarine forces until 2060. Launched in 1998 by the DGA, the Barracuda program renews the component of nuclear attack submarines made up of six Ruby-type ANSs put into service from the early 1980s. The associated development contract has was notified at the end of 2006.

More than 10 years of studies were necessary to arrive at a definition of the submarine that meets the operational needs of the Navy and of which this delivery marks the beginning of a phase leading, ultimately, to the recognition of the qualification.

The delivery of the six submarines will be spread over a decade, knowing that the lifespan of the Barracuda Class will be more than 30 years, this program engages the submarine forces at least until 2060, which makes it one of the major weapon systems of this century.

Pommellet said, "What a long way for Naval Group and all its industrial and state partners since the cutting of the first sheet on December 19, 2007, less than a year after the signing of the acquisition contract by the DGA. The industrial challenges to be taken up were numerous. I salute the commitment of the design and production teams of Naval Group, TechnicAtome, prime contractor for the on-board nuclear boiler, as well as those of the DGA, CEA and the French Navy."

The production of these submarines mobilises a multitude of exceptional know-how and expertise, including in the most advanced technological fields.

In particular, the very special steels and the underwater acoustics as well as the weapon systems they carry make these submarines among the most efficient in the world. These ANS, with their means of navigation and communication, and their centralised and automated control, are also more manoeuvrable and mobile.

"Hundreds of French companies, large and small, foremost among which Naval Group, have mobilised and continue to mobilise for this program. And this first success can only reinforce our collective commitment to meet the delivery of the next unit of the Barracuda program, the Duguay-Trouin in 2022," Pommellet added. 

Another major innovation: the optronic mast, which replaces the telescopic mast, thus ensuring better collection of visual information and better sharing of it within the crew, this capability, associated with advanced detection capabilities, guarantees the superiority of the submarines in their intelligence missions.

The submarines of the Barracuda program will also provide the French Navy with real superiority in combat, thanks to the carriage of naval cruise missiles (MdCN) produced by MBDA, allowing it to have a capacity for the first time to precision strike submarine in depth.

They also make it possible to use the new F21 heavy torpedo produced by Naval Group and the anti-ship missile SM39 from MBDA, the submarines are also equipped with enhanced capabilities for stealthy deployment of special forces.

This technological and capability leap is the result of the collective work of hundreds of partners from the Defense Industrial and Technological Base who have collaborated with Naval Group for over 20 years. In total, 2,500 women and men (including around 800 from Naval Group subcontractors) are currently contributing to the production of the Barracuda series.

All Naval Group sites are mobilised for the construction of the next five submarines. The second SNA in the series, the Duguay-Trouin, whose assembly will be completed by the end of the year, will be delivered in 2022. The third, the Tourville, is being integrated alongside the Duguay-Trouin on the Cherbourg site.

On the Naval Group site in Nantes-Indret, the assembly of the propulsion unit and the nuclear boiler module of the fourth, the De Grasse, is in progress. The sections and parts of the nuclear heating plants of Rubis, the fifth, and Casabianca, the sixth, are being machined respectively on the Naval Group site in Cherbourg and on the Naval Group site in Nantes-Indret.

The infrastructures of the Toulon naval base have been modernized to be able to accommodate these new generation submarines.

"We are ready and very proud to maintain the Suffren in Toulon," said Vincent Vimont, director of the maintenance program in operational conditions of the ANS at Naval Group.

This project, whose definition studies began in 2014, mobilised more than two hundred people from Naval Group and the fifteen subcontractors involved. Two other basins will also be modernised in the years to come.

The Toulon site teams, specialising in maintaining operational conditions, have been trained in the new technical specificities of the submarine, in the use of new installations and are now qualified to carry out future maintenance operations on the Suffren

Philippe Nezondet, Suffren trials manager at Naval Group, explained the importance of the recently completed sea trials: "We succeeded in optimizing the sea trial phase in a six-month schedule, including one hundred days at sea! By way of comparison, on Le Triomphant-type submarines this represented 15 months! This is the first time that a new vessel has been able to sail twice over a period of one month continuously during its sea trial phase."

Sea trials therefore involve, under the guidance of the DGA and the ship's management by the French Navy, to check the capabilities of the submarine and compliance with the specifications of the ship to lead to the qualification of the design of the submarines. sailors of this type.

For a nuclear submarine, they represent an intense phase of validation of onboard installations. The operations carried out gradually over several test campaigns made it possible to ensure in particular the water-tightness in immersion and the manoeuvrability of the ship, the performance of the combat system, the tactical weapons and all the high-tech equipment on board the vessel. this new generation of nuclear attack submarines.

Nezondet added, "This has demonstrated the endurance of the submarine to our client. To increase efficiency, we have reduced the number of trials and optimised sea trips."

These tests were concluded, among other things, by the firing of the SM39 missile on 23 September and the MdCN on 20 October.

The presence of the MdCN is a major advantage of these SNAs compared to their predecessors: the future submarines of the French Navy will now be able to fire from depth and reach a target on land several hundred kilometers away, this new capability guarantees the technological superiority of the ships of the French Navy.

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

The Attack Class submarines will be delivered as part of the $50 billion SEA 1000 Future Submarine program. Naval Group build 12 regionally-superior submarines to the Royal Australian 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 (ANI) program will support the development of the future submarine shipyards. The Commonwealth government formally signed the strategic partnering agreement (SPA) 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.

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