The submarine "Suffren" will change the situation for the French navy
This Friday, July 12 in Cherbourg, in the west of France, is launched in the presence of Emmanuel Macron the first copy of the latest class of French nuclear submarines: the Suffren. This new type of submerged ships ...
The Naval Group teams, on July 5, 2019 in Cherbourg against the submarine SNA Suffren, first of the class of the same name. REUTERS / Benoit Tessier
This Friday, July 12 in Cherbourg, in the west of France, is launched in the presence of Emmanuel Macron the first copy of the latest class of French nuclear submarines: the Suffren . This new type of submerged vessel will gradually replace six Ruby-class submarines, which are beginning to be "retired".
It's been like this since 1967 and the launch of the Redoutable . When France launches a new nuclear submarine, this is done in the presence of the President of the Republic and the highest civil and military authorities in the country.
The launching process, however, has evolved; After the launch of the ship in its basin, the Suffren , the first of the class of the same name, will be delicately deposited in the water from a sort of boat lift.
The official presentation of the ship is no less a source of pride for the 10,000 Naval Group employees (former DCNS), who worked in Cherbourg on the site of the very last born of the line of French submarines .
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The Suffren is a nuclear attack submarine, an SNA. Clearly, it does not carry nuclear missiles intended for deterrence, but uses an atomic reactor for its propulsion.
These submersibles are primarily intended to "hunt" other submarines. But that's not all. The program was officially launched in 1998. With this very modern vessel, France will acquire new capabilities.
" The Suffren is a puzzle of 700,000 pieces, 140 km of cables, 30 kilometers of pipes. Overall, over the duration of the contract, it will be more than 50 million working hours between the start of development and the delivery of the 6th ordered submarine , "says Vincent Martino Lagarde, Barracuda program director at Naval Group.
Six submarines ordered
The studies and construction of the SNA Suffren fleet amount to 9.1 billion euros excluding infrastructure. The sea trials will not start until next year, but the program is already three years late due to industrial problems.
At this point, no one - either at the shipbuilders' or the navy's - is likely to put forward a date for putting it into service.
The integration of all the systems in the ship can sometimes give cold sweats to the test engineers. Concretely, it will be necessary to check in the years to come that all the systems of edge work correctly together, in all the imaginable configurations, when the submarine will be under water.
According to its designers, the Suffren will be a concentrate of technology: 10 times quieter than the current submarines, says one at Naval Group. " A submarine must merge into the sound of the sea, " says Vincent Martino Lagarde.
" Underwater," he explains, " you hear a lot of things: the noise of shrimp beds, whales, merchant ships, and so on. All this generates a permanent noise, and it is necessary that the intrinsic noise of the submarine remains below the level of ambient noise. So we are trying to reduce anything that could make noise aboard the submarine, such as rotating machinery, engines, but also for example a door that slams. "
" We will make sure that these noises are inaudible outside the boat. Thus, the equipment is suspended or attached to rubber pads. And the inner hull of the submarine is covered with cork. A layer of a few centimeters makes it possible to absorb the noise generated inside so that it does not cross the hull, to pass in the water of the ocean ", specifies Vincent Martino Lagarde.
Another advantage: its size, with 5,300 tons of diving travel, the Suffren will be the most compact nuclear attack submarine in the world, 99 meters long against 114 for the American Virginia and 119 meters for the Russian Severodvinsk .
This compactness will contribute to the discretion and maneuverability of the French submarine, and will allow it to navigate both on the high seas to patrol during the missions of support for submarines nuclear launchers (SNLE) during diving in the North Atlantic than in shallow waters of the Persian Gulf.
Bertrand Dumoulin was the commander of the SNA Pearl , still in service in the French Navy. " A submarine can do a lot in a crisis. His crew can observe, he can quietly evaluate the environment without raising the level of the crisis, "he says.
Thus, " during all the last operations conducted by France, the submarines had a role to play, without necessarily using their weapons, " says Commander Dumoulin.
And to continue: " What is very interesting with the Suffren , it is that in a discreet way, it will be able to become a kind of advanced base, to be able to implement swimmers of combat with their equipments, with a mini-sub- marine. "
The Suffren will indeed be the first French submarine equipped with a system - Dry Deck - allowing to carry on its "back" a container allowing the launching of commandos and underwater tractors.
The weapon of lightning reprisals
At a time when the boundaries between war and peace are sometimes blurred, where the major powers do not hesitate to make alliances with irregular groups, France will for the first time with the Suffren a tool capable of pulling conventional cruise missiles to land-based targets.
" The naval cruise missile MDCN allows missiles to be fired at a distance of 1,000 km to targets on the coast or inland. And the submarine can do this in isolation or in a coordinated way, for example with a fresher multi-mission (Fremm) on the surface. But all the interest of hitting with a submarine is to be discreet and therefore your opponent does not know where the shot went, "said Bertrand Dumoulin.
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For twenty years, the cruise missile has become the favorite weapon of politicians, because these weapons allow strikes limited in time, but destructive.
Without unnecessarily exposing the military, Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from ships were used in 1998 during US retaliatory raids on Sudan and Afghanistan after attacks by the embassies of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Or in 2017, against the Syrian armed forces, in response to Khan Sheikhoun's chemical attack. And in 2018, against alleged chemical sites in Syria, including the CERS Barzeh, in the suburbs of Damascus.
A shower of American missiles, fired partly from the sea, had fallen on a Syrian military scientific complex that had been completely razed. France had, not without difficulty, used for the first time these naval cruise missiles from frigates, managing to launch only three missiles after technical difficulties.
The Suffren will carry about twenty missiles and torpedoes.