The French Navy Suffren submarine starts her sea trials

Florence Parly, the French Minister for the Armed Forces, welcomes the first dive at sea of the Suffren, performed on Tuesday April 28, 2020, after taking the sea from the Cherbourg naval base of. The Suffren is the first of the six Barracuda nuclear attack submarines programme.

Led by the French Armaments Directorate (DGA), these sea trials, which will last several months, will confirm the robustness and efficiency of the submarine before its delivery to the Navy.

At quay and at sea the test campaign respects the special health prevention measures and precaution related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SNAs [Sous-marins Nucléaires d’Attaque, Nuclear Attack Subnarines] represent a true power projection instruments, persistent and stealthy. Their missions are multiple: deterrence support, carrier strike group protection, intelligence gathering, underwater and anti-ship warfare. The SNAs of the Suffren type will add a cruise missile strike capability against land targets and will be optimized for Special Forces deployment.

With the Suffren, France starts the renewal of its SNA fleet that entered service in the 1980s and will thus have modern submarines among the most effective worldwide. With this first mission at sea, the Barracuda programme reaches a major milestone, following the launch of the Suffren by the President of the French Republic, on July 12 2019.

Over the past eight months, industrial and state programme teams have successfully completed all Suffren trials at quay, which aimed to verify the proper functioning of its different systems and equipment. Three prerequisites were validated: the combat system completed its shore tests and is ready for further seagoing assessments; the nuclear reactor was started at the end of 2019 after the loading of its fuel; finally, in January 2020, the submarine was put afloat to validate the first leak tests.

Started in the English Channel, these sea trials will lead the Suffren in the Atlantic and finally in the Mediterranean. Conducted under the supervision of engineers and technicians of the DGA, of the CEA (Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux énergies alternatives, Nuclear and Alternative Energy Commissioner), Naval Group and TechnicAtome, they will be carried out by Navy submariners to verify, gradually, all technical and operational capabilities of the vessel. They will last several months until delivery, scheduled in the course of the year. During the entire phase of sea trials, the ship remains owned by Naval Group. It is under the responsibility of the French Navy for its operational command and as delegated nuclear operator. The DGA, the contracting authority of the Barracuda programme, is responsible for testing until the acceptance of the boat and her delivery to the French Navy.

The DGA worked with the CEA, the French Navy and the industrial works to allow the continuity of the programme in special health conditions. Since March 16, the continuity of activities at the Cherbourg site and of the Barracuda programme plan takes into account all measures to ensure the safety of the staff.

In particular, all personnel on board for sea trials have been placed for two weeks in preventive isolation, and have been tested negative at COVID-19. On board, wearing a mask will be mandatory, and all hygiene and disinfection rules will be strictly applied.

Unofficial translation by EDR On-Line

Photo courtesy French MoD