France has launched a new project which calls for the construction of four new third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs).
Called the SNLE 3G, this programme’s launch was announced by French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on February 19 at the French Defence Procurement Agency’s (DGA) hydrodynamics test center located in Val-de-Reuil, Normandy.
The French Navy wants to replace four of its Le Triomphant-class SSBNs (SNLE 2G) with four third-generation SSBNs (SNLE 3G) beginning in 2035.
Naval Group is the prime contractor for the overall manufacture of the submarines while TechnicAtome is in charge of nuclear boilers construction.
The first contract pertaining to the project will be awarded in 2021. It covers development studies until the end of 2025, realization of the first elements of the hull and the boiler room of the first SNLE 3G, as well as the adaptation of the industrial manufacturing means of Naval Group for this program.
Compared to their predecessors, the 3G SSBNs will be longer and heavier. The boat will be 150m and will have a displacement of about 15,000 tons (submerged).
It will feature improved acoustic discretion, better hydrodynamics, increased maneuverability and even quieter propulsion. Stealth will be increased with new coatings. All the sensors will be at the best technological standard, particularly in underwater detection, the French MoD said.
“The new submarines will respond to evolving threats for the next 50 years and will carry future versions of the M51 strategic missile,” Parly added.
The ship will reportedly carry 16 modernized M51 SLBMs and 4 torpedo tubes for F21 heavyweight torpedo and probably the FCASW (Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon).
Thales will develop a complete sonar suite, including a broad range of sonar arrays and associated processing systems. The company will provide ALICIA sensor data processing system, new-generation flank arrays and bow-mounted sonars, a towed linear array based on optical technology (ALRO), and all the other equipment making up the sonar suite (intercept arrays, echo-sounders, underwater telephones).
TechnicAtome says the nuclear propulsion reactor of the SNLE 3G program is a link between the lower-power reactor of the Barracuda-class submarine and the reactor of the future PANG aircraft carrier. Known as K22, this reactor will deliver significantly higher power. Their design studies started in December.