French Navy's Nuclear Submarine Commences Sea Trials

  • Our Bureau
  • 07:03 AM, April 30, 2020
  • 2020
French Navy's Nuclear Submarine Commences Sea Trials
Suffren nuclear submarine (image: Naval Group)

The French Navy’s first nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) "Suffren" performed static dive test on April 28, marking the beginning of sea trials for the Barracuda progam.

A Static dive test involves controlled flow of water into a ballast tank of the submarine until it is completely submerged without using its propulsion systems.

It is designed to determine the submerged displacement of the submarine: the test is designed to ensure sealing and longitudinal and transverse stability of the submarine while underwater, and to record the volume of water in the ballast tanks.

The Suffren departed from the Cherbourg naval base on Tuesday. After initial trials in Cherbourg, the submarine will head to Brest for deep diving tests and lastly, to Toulon for the Suffren’s weapon systems- a F21 heavyweight torpedo, SM39 Exocet Block 2 Mod 2 anti-ship missile and a naval cruise missile, to be evaluated.

French Navy's Nuclear Submarine Commences Sea Trials

The French Armament Directorate (DGA), the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), Naval Group and TechnicAtome are tasked with conducting the tests.

The sea trials, aimed at validating seaworthiness and efficiency of the vessel, will last several months before its delivery to the Marine Nationale by the end of this year.

“Over the past eight months, the program's industrial and state teams have successfully conducted all of the Suffren's dockside tests, which aimed to verify the proper functioning of its various systems and equipment. Three prerequisites are validated: the combat system has reached the end of its tests on land and is ready for the continuation of sea assessments; the nuclear reactor was started at the end of 2019 after loading its fuel; Finally, in January 2020, the submarine was put afloat to validate the first leak tests,” the French Ministry of the Armed Forces said in a statement Wednesday.

The ministry added that at dockside, and at sea, the test campaign follows the specific health prevention and precautionary measures linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. All crew members for sea trials had been placed in a preventive 14-day quarantine and have tested negative for the deadly virus. On board, wearing a mask will be mandatory at all times and the rules of hygiene and disinfection will be strictly applied.

French Navy's Nuclear Submarine Commences Sea Trials

Launched in 1998, the Barracuda program renews its Ship Subsurface Nuclear (SSN) component composed of six Rubis type SSNs commissioned at the start of eighties. The associated development contract was notified in December 2006.

The delivery of the six submarines will span one decade beginning in 2020.

Technical characteristics of Suffren-class submarines:

• Surface displacement: 4,700 tonnes
• Diving displacement: 5,200 tonnes
• Length: 99 metres
• Diameter: 8.8 metres
• Armament: naval cruise missiles, F21 heavy-weight wire-guided torpedoes, modernised
• Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles
• Hybrid propulsion: pressurised water reactor derived from the reactors on board the
• Triomphant-type SSBN and Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier, two propulsion turbines,
• two turbo generators and two electric motors
• Crew: 65 crew members + commandos
• Availability: > 270 days per year

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