France's Triomphant-class Continues to Serve as the Force de Dissuasion - The four Triomphant-class of the French Marine Nationale (Navy) serve as the nation's nuclear deterrent strike force, the "force de dissuasion." Home ported in Île Longue, Roadstead of Brest, Western Brittany, the class of ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) is known in French as the Sous-Marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engins de Nouvelle Génération (English: "Next Generation Device-Launching Nuclear Submarine"), abbreviated as SNLE-NG.
Triomphant-class: A History
The lead boat, Le Triomphant, was laid down at Cherbourg in 1989, launched in 1994, and entered service in 1997.
While six boats were originally planned, the number was reduced to just four after the end of the Cold War. The three additional boats of the Triomphant-class entered service respectively in 1999, 2004 and 2010.
Each of the subs is a sizeable 453 feet (138 meters) long and 41 feet (12.5 meters) at the beam. The boats are capable of maintaining twenty-five knots while submerged and can remain underwater for around sixty days.
They each carry a crew of 111, including officers and sailors.
The submarines are powered by a single K15 pressurized water nuclear reactor (150 MW/200,000 shp) turboreductor system and electric motor (30,500 kW/40,900 shp) – along with two diesel generators SEMT Pielstick 8 PA 4V 200 SM (700 kw/940 shp) as auxiliaries.
The boats are equipped with four 21-inch (533 mm) tubes, and carry a total of eighteen ECAN L5 Mod 3 dual-purpose, active/passive homing torpedoes; or surface-to-surface (SSM) carried in a mixed load. Weapons controls include the SAD (Systeme d'Armes de Dissuasion) data system (for SLBMs), SAT (Systeme d'Armes Tactique), and DLA 4A weapon control system (for SSM and torpedoes).
Improved Nuclear Deterrent
The first three vessels of the class were originally armed with the French-produced and armed M45 intermediate-range missile, while the fourth vessel, Le Terrible, was equipped with the more advanced M51 missile. Each of the first three boats has been subsequently retrofitted to carry the M51 missile standard, with the last M45 offloaded in 2016.
The M51 has a reported range of around 5,000 miles (8,000 km) with full payload and 6,200 miles (10,000 km) with reduced payload. The range is sufficient to strike many targets around the globe, and each of the missiles carries six to ten independently targetable warheads – each with a blast yield of 107 kT.
As the M51 offers a greater range than the M45, which it replaced, it has enabled the French submarine force to greatly expand their respective patrol zones.
Moreover, the missile carries penetration aids in order to overcome hostile air defenses, while the upgraded M51.2version of this missile, which first entered service in 2015, carries a much more powerful 150 kT warheads.
About the Author
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.