The Suffren project: the first French nuclear submarine of the new generation enters service

Techno 3 June, 2022

France officially put into operation on Friday, June 3, in Brest (Finisterre) its first nuclear attack submarine (SNA) of a new generation. Named «Suffren», it is the first of a series of six missiles designed to replace the Rubis-type submarines in service since the 1980s by 2030. It allows France to make a real military breakthrough in the field of anti-submarine warfare. On this occasion, the new Minister of the Armed Forces, Sebastien Lecorny, made a trip to Brest, where he took advantage of an individual visit.

The commissioning of a new submarine is always a bright event, but a special emphasis on the «Suffren» is gaining due to the Ukrainian conflict, while the current tensions have pushed France to strengthen its nuclear deterrence potential. «Suffren» is a technological monster with a length of almost 100 meters and a weight of 5,300 tons, manufactured in Cherbourg (Manche) by the companies Naval Group and TechnicAtome. Presented as faster, stealthier and able to swim longer, it is also better armed than its predecessors.

It can carry up to 20 torpedoes and missiles on board, including anti-ship missiles, which is twice as much as Rubis. The «Suffren» is also the first French submarine capable of having cruise missiles, long-range missiles capable of hitting, in this case, ground infrastructure facilities located at a distance of 1,000 kilometers.

Another novelty: a «lock chamber» for combat swimmers. This small removable hangar makes it easier for swimmers to exit the submarine and saves them from having to pass through the torpedo tube. In this lock, swimmers can access a thruster that makes it easier to reach the shore. An ability that other countries, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, possess, but that France did not have. Thus, this equipment was intended so that «Suffren» could carry out operations with commandos that the crews of Rubis-class submarines could not afford.

Boats like the «Suffren» can be useful both for reconnaissance operations and for a show of force, as was the case in 2021, when another SNC was sent to the Indo-Pacific region for seven months. «Suffren» can also provide protection for facilities such as the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier or ballistic missile submarines (SNLE) carrying nuclear missiles. With the war in Ukraine, France, for the first time since the Euro-missile crisis (1977-1987), increased to two or even three, depending on the sources, the number of SSBNs permanently stationed at sea to ensure French nuclear deterrence.