Next-Generation French Nuclear Attack Submarine Suffren Enters Service

The Suffren (Q284), the first of six nuclear submarines built under the “Barracuda” program, entered active service on Friday, June 3, in Brest, northwest France, following a long delay, according to the French Navy (Marine Nationale). Sébastien Lecornu, France’s new Defense Minister, and Naval Group Chairman Pierre Éric Pommellet were in Brest to celebrate Suffren’s entry into active service with the sailors.

The submarine was accepted into active service three years after it was launched and a little more than two years after it began its first sea trials. The submarine, which was supposed to enter active service in 2021, was delayed, first due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then due to a leaking problem found in one of its turbines during sea trials. Despite the numerous delays and industrial challenges, the submarine’s entry into service this year may be considered perfect timing given the current Russia-Ukraine war and Europe’s rising tension with Russia.

The Suffren is the first of six SSNs designed under the Barracuda program to gradually replace the six Rubis-class SNAs that entered service with the French Navy between 1983 and 1993 by 2030. The contract for development was signed in 2006 as part of a program initiated by the French government’s defense procurement agency, Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), in 1998. The program’s total cost was originally estimated to be 7.9 billion euros, but it was later revised to 9.1 billion euros.

Naval Group launched the Suffren, the first of six next-generation nuclear submarines, at Cherbourg on July 12, 2019, in a ceremony presided over by President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron. / From Naval Group

The production of six SSNs under the Barracuda program, which aims to develop more modern successors to assure the navy’s nuclear deterrence’s long-term viability, has been assigned to the French industrial group Naval Group, which specializes in maritime defense construction. Naval Group is in charge of the design and construction of this submarine series, as well as the manufacturing of the main components of the nuclear boiler rooms and the information systems. TechnicAtome is also the primary contractor for the submarine’s nuclear reactors.

Suffren SSN during sea trials south of Toulon in 2020. / From the French Navy

According to the Naval Group, the Barracuda-class (or Suffren-class) submarines will support nuclear deterrence missions, intelligence gathering, carrier battlegroup protection (particularly the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle), and anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare operations. Suffren Submarines are twice the size of Rubis class submarines, with a surface displacement of 4,700 tons, a diving displacement of 5,300 tons, a length of 99 meters, a diameter of 8.8 meters, and a hybrid propulsion system. The submarines, which can operate continuously for 270 days with a crew of 65, will be equipped with modern and effective munitions such as Naval Cruise Missiles (NMS), F-21 heavy-weight torpedoes and Exocet SM39 Anti-Ship Missiles.

Additionally, the next five Barracuda submarines are being built at Naval Group facilities. The second Barracuda submarine, the Duguay-Trouin, will be launched by the end of the year and delivered to the navy in 2023 if no delays occur. The navy expects to receive the last four submarines (Tourville, de Grasse, Rubis, and Casabianca) by 2030.