France’s first new-generation Suffren-class (Barracuda) nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), Suffren, was ceremonially launched at Naval Group’s Cherbourg site on 12 July.
Although the event was qualified as a launching ceremony, Suffren’s drydock will not actually be flooded until the end of July. Ahead of the event, the boat was transferred from the shipyard’s assembly hall to the launching platform on 4–5 July.
Harbour trials are planned to start on 13 July and will continue until the second quarter of 2020, after which at-sea trials will begin. The loading of the nuclear core of the reactor is planned for September 2019, and the reactor is expected to go critical for the first time in November or December, according to Pascal Lucas, director for nuclear propulsion at France’s Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission CEA).
Under current scheduling, Naval Group will deliver Suffren to the Direction générale de l’armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, in mid-2020, following acceptance trials beginning in the first quarter of 2020. The French Navy will then begin at-sea trials that will include the launching of new weapons, the F21 torpedo and Missile De Croisière Naval (MDCN) naval cruise missile, and a long-term deployment. Suffren’s first crew was officially activated on 11 July.
Suffren is the first of six new SSNs being developed under the Barracuda programme. The French Loi de programmation militaire 2019–2025 military funding programme foresees the commissioning of four Barracudas by 2025, and the final two by 2030. The Barracuda SSNs are expected to remain in service until the 2060s.
The Suffren class will progressively replace the French Navy’s ageing fleet of six Rubis Amethyste-class SSNs.
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