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France's SNLE 3G deterrent submarine programme gets green light

France’s armed forces minister Florence Parly has given the go-ahead for the renewal of the French Navy’s deterrent submarine force under the mantle of the Sous-marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engins de 3e Génération (SNLE 3G) programme.

A class of four new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) is planned to enter service from 2035, replacing the current Le Triomphant-class SSBNs and ensuring that the French Navy can continue to maintain a continuous at-sea deterrent. The three follow-on boats will be delivered at five-year intervals thereafter.

Announcing the launch of the programme at the Direction générale de l’armement’s (DGA’s) hydrodynamic test centre at Val-de-Reuil, Normandy, on 19 February, Parly said that the SNLE 3G design would be larger than the current Le Triomphant-class boats while also more hydrodynamically efficient, more manoeuvrable, and quieter.

DGA will manage the programme in partnership with the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives energy commission. At the industrial level, shipbuilder Naval Group and nuclear group TechnicAtome will work as co-prime contractors: Naval Group will take responsibility for the submarine’s design, build, and integration, while TechnicAtome will be responsible for the development and production of the new K22 pressurised water reactor.

A first contract award, planned for later this year, will fund design and development studies running through to the end of 2025. It will also cover long lead provisions for the pressure hull and reactor compartment of the lead submarine, as well as infrastructure upgrades at Naval Group’s facilities.

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