Inauguration of the Suffren, the latest weapon of the French Navy

Bigger, heavier, more powerful but also more discreet. The Suffren, the first submarine of the Barracuda class, is to replace the Rubis class buildings built in the 1980s.


Bigger, heavier, more powerful but also more discreet. The Suffren, the first submarine of the Barracuda class, is to replace the Rubis class buildings built in the 1980s.

It is as long as a football field, yet its key word is discretion. The latest French nuclear attack submarine (SNA), the Suffren, is to be inaugurated this Friday in Cherbourg in the presence of Emmanuel Macron. This Barracuda-class ship represents a real technological leap, a passage from "a 207 to a Formula 1," dare even Bertrand Dumoulin, spokesman for the Navy.

Even if it is 2.5 times heavier than the submarines of the class Rubis, which he is the first of the substitutes, with 5,300 tons in diving against 2,670, the Suffren is however 10 times more discreet than its predecessors. an indispensable parameter for intelligence. "The inner hull of the submarine is covered with cork that absorbs the noise so that it does not go into the water", explains the microphone of Europe 1 Vincent Martinot-Lagarde, director of the program Barracuda at Naval-Group .

"An advanced commando base"

Another particularity of this building: it has no periscope. To see what's happening on the surface, there's no more sliding tube passing through the hull, which made it a point of vulnerability, but cameras placed at the top of a mast that retransmit the images on the screens of the submariners . But the capabilities of the Suffren, and five other Barracuda class submarines planned for 2030, do not stop there. It can go faster and further than the Rubies built in the 1980s. But above all, it can stay under water for up to 70 days in perfect autonomy against 45 for the previous generation.

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On the armament side, here too the novelty is present: the Suffren is able to "hit a target on the mainland at a distance of 1,000 kilometers [about the distance between Paris and Vienna, ed]," says Commander Dumoulin. "And the whole point of doing it from a submarine is that it's unobtrusive, so you do not know where the shot is coming from," he says. But the Suffren can also count on men on the ground to accomplish its future missions thanks to a removable bridge and a mini-submarine that allows combat swimmers to deploy directly under water with their equipment. "It's a kind of advanced commando base, we are the only ones with our British and American allies to have this capability," said the spokesman for the French Navy.

More and more submarines around the world

Its launch comes against a backdrop of a worldwide increase in the number of submarines (+ 6% in 5 years). There are now more than 450. If the United States, Russia, China and the United Kingdom are the only ones with France to be equipped with ANS, many countries renew their conventional fleet (India, Australia) and others are getting it for the first time (Malaysia, Bangladesh, Vietnam). The blow of the Barracuda fleet is estimated at 9 billion euros. The actual launching will take place only at the end of July, three years late, before trials at berth, then at sea, and its delivery to the Navy in Toulon before the summer of 2020.

A nuclear submarine does not carry nuclear missiles

Contrary to what their name may imply, the SNAs do not carry nuclear missiles, which are accommodated on board the four submarines launching French craft (SNLE). They are called "nuclear submarines" because their propulsion comes from a compact nuclear reactor, which provides autonomy and acoustic discretion compared to conventional submarines diesel-electric propulsion. The ANS mission is to protect valuable vessels such as aircraft carriers and SSBNs, hunt enemy submarines and gather intelligence closer to enemy shores.

ref: europe1