The Suffren-classSubmarine, a Primer: In August 2023, the French Ministry of Armed Forces announced that the second Suffren-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (or Barracuda-Class) had been delivered after months of sea trials. The Duguay-Trouin was built by the French shipbuilding firm Naval Group and was handed over to the French Navy in Brest.
The sea trials for the second of six planned attack submarines of the Suffren-class began in March 2023.
According to Shephard Media, the tests were led by the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA), in conjunction with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission and in close partnership with the French Navy and Naval Group and TechnicAtome. These included a static dive, or immersion without propelled movement, to check the stability of the submarine; surface and diving tests; safety and operation of the installations, including its nuclear boiler room; and diving tests to verify the operation of its combat system, including its ability to implement its weapons and communicate.
Duguay-Trouin was laid down in June 2009 and had been due to be delivered in 2022, but was delayed due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The next boat of the class, Tourville, was laid down two years later, in June 2011, and is expected to begin her sea trials next year.
All six of the French Navy's SSNs are planned to be handed over by 2030.
France's Suffran-Class: Lead-boat Now in Service
The first of the new class of attack submarines, Suffren, was commissioned into service in June 2022, 18 months after it was handed over to the French Navy for testing. The Suffren-class submarines were developed to replace the existing Rubis-class and Amethyste-class boats and provide France with an enhanced sub-surface attack capability.
The new class of attack submarines will serve as the backbone of France's submarine force until the 2060s, while delivery of the four other submarines is expected to take place over the next decade.
More than ten years of studies were conducted to determine the course of submarine development to meet the operational needs of the French Navy. The Suffren program began in 1998 when it was launched by the DGA, while the associated development contract was notified at the end of 2006.
However, it took another decade of those studies before the operational needs were finalized.
Advanced Production Methods for Barracuda-Class
Naval Group is in charge of the production of these submarines, from their design to their construction, as well as the manufacture of the main components of the nuclear boilers, which are developed and produced with TechnicAtome, NavalToday.com reported.
The construction of the Suffren-class submarines has utilized a wide range of exceptional know-how involving the most advanced technologies. According to Naval Group that has included the use of very special types of steel, underwater acoustics performance, and weapons systems that make the Suffren-class one of the most efficient submarines in the world.
Key Suffren-class Submarine Details
The nuclear-powered Suffren-class submarines have a surface displacement of 4,600 tons, an underwater displacement of 5,200 tons, and an immersion depth of 300 meters. The missions of the Suffren-class can include anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, land attack, intelligence gathering, crisis management, and special operations.
Among the innovative enhancements on the boat is its "optronic" mast, which replaces the telescopic mast. According to Naval Group, this will ensure a better collection of visual information and better sharing of this information among the crew. This new feature, combined with advanced detection capabilities, guarantees the superiority of attack submarines in their intelligence missions.
The boats also incorporated technology from the Triomphant-class of French Navy ballistic missile submarines, notably its pump-jet propulsion.
The Suffren-class was developed to provide the French Navy with a real combat superiority and for the first time enable a deep strike capability via MBDA naval cruise missiles (NCM), which can engage land-based targets located hundreds of kilometers away. The vessel can be equipped with F21 heavyweight wire-guided torpedoes and modernized Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles.
Each submarine can accommodate a crew of 60 sailors –including 12 officers and 48 petty officers. The boats were further designed to accommodate up to 15 Commandos Marine or other Special Forces operators and can integrate with a removable dry deck shelter aft of the sail able to embark the commandos' new generation PSM3G Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (ECA Special Warfare Underwater Vehicle)
State of the SSN Market
Currently, Russia, France, and the UK are the only three countries in Europe that are acquiring nuclear-powered attack submarines as replacements for existing SSNs now in service, according to GlobalData's "The Global Submarine Market 2023-2033" report.
"Various countries across the globe are enhancing their underwater warfare capabilities by commissioning advanced AIP and nuclear-powered submarines, primarily to gain asymmetric advantages over their opponents and to enhance their second strike capability, which has resulted in the growth of the submarine market," said Kandlikar Venkatesh, defense analyst at GlobalData.
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Image Credit: French Navy.