MBDA has carried out the first demonstration of the operational capabilities of LYNKEUS Dismounted, comprising the MMP system in «infantry» configuration and a Novadem NX70 drone linked via radio to its weapon terminal.
Carried out with the support of the French Army and of the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA – French Procurement Agency) at the Canjuers military camp in the south of France, this firing was representative of a ‘Beyond Line Of Sight’ (BLOS) engagement.
During this demonstration, the drone enabled the detection and identification of a tank located outside the MMP operator’s field of vision. The transfer of the coordinates for the target to the MMP firing station illustrated the possibility of engaging a target not directly seen by the operator. The missile was «locked-on» to the target during its flight by the MMP operator after detecting the tank via the video stream from the MMP seeker, which was continuously transmitted to the firing station via fibre optics. The demonstration successfully concluded with a direct hit on the target.
This demonstration confirms the capabilities offered by LYNKEUS for the quality and control of the information chain going from the drone to the firing station. It also proves the precision of the extraction of the coordinates for the target.
Philippe Gouyon, Military Advisor at MBDA, said: «This firing also concludes a year-long tactical evaluation conducted with the Army and Novadem exploring all the capabilities of the system and thus, allows MBDA to propose an MMP/drone combination that meets the needs of remote observation and target designation of contact units. These experiments notably included real-time engagement simulations in virtual reality but also combining, in the field, real equipment (drones, weapon terminal) and MMP simulators implemented by Land Forces units. We are very satisfied with the results of this work, which made it possible to understand the forces’ needs to finalize the system carrying the BLOS capability for dismounted combat».
The collaborative engagement capacity allowing firing ‘beyond line of sight’ is a breakthrough operational concept, supported at European level by the participants in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) BLOS project.
Naval Group manufactured this new-generation propeller thanks to a metal 3D printing process. Mounted on a tripartite minehunter, the propeller will now accompany the ship in all of its operational missions.
This propeller is a technological exploit. With its 2.5-metre/8.2-foot span supported by five 200-kg/441-lbs. blades, the equipment left the workshops of the Naval Group site of Nantes-Indret in October 2020 for the site of Brest in order to be mounted on the propeller shaft. As part of its major technical stop, the assembly was transferred to the submarine base to be mounted on the intermediate shaft of the Andromède in November. Sea trials were then performed successfully at the end of December.
A world first for this on-board innovation
«Obtaining military naval quality requires rigorous development. Nearly three years of R&D – carried out by the Technical and Innovation Department in cooperation with the Ecole Centrale de Nantes within the framework of the LabCom Joint Laboratory of Maritime Technology – went into the development of the deposition process of metal wire fusion», states Emmanuel Chol, Director of the Nantes-Indret site. «Today, we witness a world first. It is the largest metal 3D-printed thruster ever to have been manufactured and the first propeller resulting from this technology, embarked on board a military ship and manufactured for use beyond just sea trials».
The harsh conditions in which ships are used warrant the need to meet strict requirements (corrosion, fatigue, shock resistance, etc.). Naval Group worked together Bureau Véritas throughout the process to present its technical justification file in order to allow the SSF (Fleet Support Services) and the DGA (French Defence Procurement Agency) to authorise the trial of the blades produced on a military ship in normal operating conditions. The blades received certification from Bureau Véritas.
€7 million investment in metal 3D printing in 2021
For Eric Balufin, Director of the Naval Group site of Brest, «the assembly of this 3D-printed propeller shows great promise for the future. This new technology will enable us to considerably reduce technical constraints, and therefore allow for new manufacturing solutions for complex geometrical shapes which cannot be produced through conventional processes. It will also enable us to greatly reduce production time and consequently in-service support».
This propeller is a first step. A new development phase will begin, aimed at revamping the detailed design of other parts so that they benefit from 3D printing (acoustic discretion, weight reduction, increased productivity of the parts). For example, 3D-printed production of thrusters will provide ships with greater efficacy at sea: increased thrust efficiency, stealth and lightening.
Nexter, Thales and Arquus, as part of the temporary grouping of companies (GME) EBMR (Engins Blindés Multi-Rôles), presented the 128th GRIFFON planned for 2020 to the French Delegation for Armaments (DGA). Under the terms of the SCORPION program, and despite an unprecedented health crisis that profoundly affected production, the three manufacturers were able to take the challenge and meet their contractual objectives.
After this step, the last GRIFFONs will have to be submitted to the verification operations carried out by the DGA’s quality department. The vehicles will then be transported to the Canjuers site where the Army will proceed to take them into account; it is then that the DGA will formally receive them. To date, 90 GRIFFON have completed this route, adding to the 92 GRIFFON delivered in 2019. From January 2021, the last vehicles that left the production line in December will join them in the regiments, catching up very early in 2021 with the delay due to the health crisis.
From March 2020, Covid-19 has indeed strongly disrupted the industrial organization of the program. The site of Roanne, where the GRIFFON and JAGUAR are assembled, was forced to suspend its activity from March 20 to 30 in order to allow the installation of a structure adapted to the resumption of the activity under maximum safety conditions. Since then, two teams have been working on the lines in shifts of eight consecutive hours (2×8) to ensure that the lines are operational during these 16-hour days. Closely linked to their government contacts and after consulting their suppliers, the members of the GME quickly reviewed the initial schedule: the 2020 objectives were maintained for GRIFFON; the first deliveries of JAGUAR were postponed to April 2021; and this, while preserving the number of deliveries at the end of 2021.
The year 2020 was marked by the passage of several major milestones for the GME. In September, the DGA notified the third conditional tranche of the EBMR contract, enabling the second batch of vehicles (271 GRIFFON and 42 JAGUAR by 2023) to go into production. In November, the GRIFFON command post vehicle (EPC) was qualified. Thus, among the 128 GRIFFONs of 2020, 35 examples of this new variant were presented to the administration, an additional difficulty that the EPC teams overcame. Finally, the new-generation T1 remotely operated turret that will arm the GRIFFONs was also qualified by the DGA.
Nexter, Arquus and Thales would like to pay tribute to the exceptional commitment of their teams. Their sense of duty and creativity have enabled them to meet the expectations of the French Army and its combatants as best they could, while greatly limiting the impact of the health crisis.
The President of the Republic announced the launch of studies for the replacement of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier by a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier by 2038. Naval Group is delighted with this decision and will be involved in this historic project with its major industrial partners Chantiers de l’Atlantique, TechnicAtome and Dassault Aviation. Naval Group’s know-how and skills will be fully mobilised to meet the French armed forces’ expectations. The President of the French Republic’s choice is a major boost for the French defence industrial and technological base and the nuclear industry as this project will mobilise several hundred jobs in France, and then several thousand each year in the implementation phase.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, Chairman and CEO of Naval Group said: «We are delighted with the announcement by the President of the French Republic, which will enable France to maintain its position in the very restricted circle of major powers holding a nuclear aircraft carrier. This project will help develop jobs in the defence industrial and technological base and ensure the continuity of our skills in the current health and economic crisis. Naval Group, its partners and its entire ecosystem will enable the French Navy to benefit from the best naval systems for its flagship. We are committed, as an overall architect, to respond, together with our partners Chantiers de l’Atlantique and TechnicAtome, as well as Dassault Aviation, to the expression of needs of the French general armament directorate (DGA) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). Finally, this project will make it possible to develop innovation in the fields of propulsion and high added-value military systems, thus maintaining France’s technological lead and its position as a key geostrategic player. This is a huge pride for Naval Group to begin the building of the biggest warship France has ever built».
Naval Group has been contributing for 60 years to the design, construction and maintenance in operational condition of the French aircraft carriers
As the European leader in naval defence, Naval Group has for many decades ensured the technological superiority of the vessels of the French Navy and its international customers. Their operational excellence has been regularly demonstrated.
Among its many accomplishments, Naval Group has contributed to the design, construction and maintenance in operational condition of the three aircraft carriers of the French Navy: the Clémenceau, the Foch and the Charles de Gaulle. These ships have contributed to France’s influence in many conflict areas around the world. Naval Group is one of a very small number of industrial companies capable of building aircraft carriers.
More specifically, Naval Group has also built and integrated, in partnership with the CEA and TechnicAtome, the two nuclear boilers on-board the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the first French aircraft carrier equipped with nuclear propulsion. This nuclear-powered vessel has proven her reliability and safety. Nuclear propulsion gives this ship a considerable autonomy at sea and a great flexibility of use.
Having entered active service in 2001, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will be in service until approximately 2038.
Naval Group’s exceptional skills, unique in Europe, will be fully mobilised
Naval Group, as a system integrator and prime contractor for the French Navy’s submarines and surface vessels, has developed advanced and rare skills. Among its expertise, Naval Group has skills in three key areas in particular: the activities of architect and overall prime contractor, of systems integrator of complex naval weapon systems, and concerning nuclear propulsion, the manufacture and assembly of reactors, and the maintenance in operational condition of nuclear boilers.
Naval Group also has unique expertise in Europe in the integration and implementation of an aircraft carrier equipped with catapults and landing brakes as well as her air group. Integrating more than 200,000 pieces of equipment in 2,500 premises, producing more than 10,000 drawings, managing more than 3,000 contracts, and assembling 1,200 km of cables and 300 km of piping require a cutting-edge expertise. This expertise also covers the integration of the combat and navigation systems. Fully interconnected with allies units, the combat system enables to prepare, coordinate and lead the aircraft carrier’s actions and those of the naval aviation group in real time. The combat system also ensures the ship self-defence and the security of internal as well as external communications.
In addition, Naval Group masters the implementation of fighter aviation on aircraft carriers with catapults and arresting strands. The aircraft is the central element of the aircraft carrier, whose main function is that of a mobile air base capable of operating on all the seas of the globe.
In addition, Naval Group has infrastructures dedicated to these areas of expertise. For nuclear propulsion, for example, there is a test platform for turbo-alternator modules at the Naval Group site in Nantes-Indret. The company also has integration platforms for combat systems and control systems, and a unique tool for simulating flows on the flight deck of aeronautical munitions combined with virtual reality visualization.
The project for the future aircraft carrier guarantees the durability of skills and jobs for the entire French defence industrial and technological base
The development and construction of the new generation aircraft carrier represents an investment of nearly twenty years, from 2021 to 2038. After a sketch phase, Naval Group and its industrial partners will now be in charge of carrying out a two-year preliminary design studiy, which will be followed by detailed design studies that will finally precede the development and construction of the aircraft carrier, a product of rare complexity.
The nuclear component of the propulsion, the implementation of on-board aviation and the operation of the new-generation aircraft carrier will lead Naval Group to reinforce key skills of engineers, technicians and workers at all Naval Group sites: Lorient, Nantes-Indret, Toulon, Angoulême-Ruelle and Brest, as well as those of its major partners Chantiers de l’Atlantique, TechnicAtome and Dassault Aviation.
The Sea Venom/ANL anti-ship missile has completed its qualification firings trials, with a successful final firing at the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) test site at Ile du Levant on 17 November.
Soon to start equipping the Royal Navy’s AW159 Wildcat and Marine nationale’s H160M Guépard shipborne helicopters, the Sea Venom/ANL anti-ship missile is a co-operation project developed under the Lancaster House treaty between France and the United Kingdom. The Sea Venom/ANL missile is the first programme to take full advantage of the cross-border centres of excellence on missile technologies launched by the Lancaster House treaty, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this month.
The final qualification trial tested the missile’s advanced target discrimination within a complex and cluttered naval scenario.
Éric Béranger, MBDA CEO, said: «I want to congratulate the UK-French teams across both MBDA and our governments for the commitment they have shown in meeting this qualification milestone amid the disruption caused by Covid-19. Together they have proven that through co-operation we can jointly overcome adversity and deliver leading edge military capabilities».
Previous trials have tested the missiles launch envelope, release envelope and engagement modes, such as its low-altitude sea-skimming flight, Lock On After Launch (LOAL), Lock On Before Launch (LOBL), operator-in-the-loop, and aimpoint refinement.
During a visit to the Dassault Aviation plant in Seclin, in northern France, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, today announced the upcoming notification of the contract for the «Albatros» Maritime Surveillance and Intervention Aircraft (AVSIMAR) program, which will be based on the Dassault Aviation Falcon 2000LXS. In accordance with the multiyear military spending bill (LPM), the initial order is for seven aircraft, to be delivered from 2025, out of the planned total of 12.
Dassault Aviation and the dozens of French companies associated with the Falcon programs would like to thank the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) and the French Navy for their confidence.
The Falcon 2000 Albatros will feature a multifunction radar under the fuselage, a high-performance optronic turret, observation windows, a SAR (Search & Rescue) kit release system and dedicated communication systems.
In line with the aeronautical maintenance transformation policy initiated by the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, the Albatros contract commits Dassault Aviation to a guaranteed availability clause, favoring industrial support in close cooperation with Navy personnel for 10 years.
«The Falcon 2000 Albatros is a high-performance aircraft equipped with a mission system and sensors of the latest generation. From the Falcon 20 of the U.S. Coast Guard to the Falcon 2000MSA of the Japanese Coast Guard, as well as the Falcon 200 Gardian and 50M of the French Navy, we have extensive experience in maritime surveillance, in addition to our long experience in maritime patrol with the Atlantique», said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. «Several countries have shown interest in these aircraft, which provide an effective response to the considerable challenges of homeland protection and maritime security and government action at sea: fighting pollution and trafficking, surveillance of borders and exclusion zones, fisheries policing, search and rescue at sea, etc. It is only fitting that France, which has the world’s second largest exclusive economic zone, should be at the forefront in the use of this type of aircraft».
The first Falcon 2000LXS aircraft on which the program will be based will be manufactured in France. The remainder will be produced in India as part of the offset arrangements related to the 2016 Rafale contract. The conversion of the 12 Falcon 2000LXS aircraft into the Albatros configuration will all be carried out in France.
Over the past 50 years, Dassault Aviation has modified many Falcon aircraft to adapt them for maritime surveillance, medical evacuation, cargo transport, calibration, intelligence-gathering, training, etc. These multi-role aircraft represent approximately 10% of the Falcon fleet in service. French government services operate Falcon 10, 200, 50, 900, 2000, 7X and soon 8X aircraft in a strategic intelligence version under the Archange contract.
These multi-role Falcon aircraft are a perfect example of the dual civil/military know-how of Dassault Aviation: they benefit from the cutting-edge technologies developed for our fighter aircraft and, at the same time, they take advantage of the industrial processes used for the highly competitive production of our business jets.
French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly has announced that MBDA is to develop the Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile (MAST-F) program as the main French Army air to ground armament for the Tiger combat helicopter.
MBDA was selected after proposing to the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA – French Procurement Agency) its MHT/MLP concept (Missile Haut de Trame/Missile Longue Portée – high tier missile/long-range mobile missile) that builds on the technologies of the mid-range Missile Moyenne Portée (MMP), the first 5th generation land combat missile to enter service around the world. Its modular architecture enables easy integration of the MHT/MLP onto a variety of land or air combat platforms in addition to the Tiger.
The MHT/MLP is characterised by its high operational effectiveness. Weighing 20% less than other missiles in its category provides a weight saving of nearly 100 kg/220 lbs. for the Tiger helicopter, which can carry up to eight missiles in combat configuration. Exploiting this weight saving increases the Tiger’s fuel capacity and so its combat endurance, with a significant gain in «Playtime».
The MHT/MLP has a range of over 8 km/5 miles, even when fired from a stationary platform at low altitude. Its multi-effect warhead can handle a wide variety of targets, from modern battle tanks to hardened combat infrastructure. The MHT/MLP performs day or night, including in Beyond-Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) mode, with a two-way data link that sends images from the missile’s high-resolution visible and infrared optronic seeker back to the operator. The crew of the Tiger can use this imagery to choose the missile’s point of impact or to select a new target in flight, making the weapon suitable for fluid battlefield situations.
Commenting on the launch of the programme, MBDA CEO Eric Béranger declared: «The MHT/MLP missile combines new technologies, developed with the support of the DGA, with the tried and tested components of the MMP, making it an effector at the forefront of today’s tactical land combat missiles. It offers a flexibility of use unmatched in today’s armed forces, while minimising development risks. And with its all-European design authority, the MHT/MLP programme will fully contribute to the strategic autonomy objectives set by France and the European Union».
«With nearly 350 jobs per year over the next five years and, ultimately, around 250 annual jobs in France during the first 10 years of its production, the development and production of this new missile will help maintain of the national industrial and technological base, and in particular in the Centre region», he added.
Naval Group has launched the FREMM Lorraine (D657) in Lorient on Friday 13th November. This ship was ordered by the French General Directorate of Armament (DGA) on behalf of the French Navy. The program management is entrusted to the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). The FREMM Lorraine (D657) is the tenth unit of the FREMM series produced by Naval Group, and the eighth and last one added to the French Navy’s fleet.
It is also the second FREMM frigate of the FREMM DA type, presenting an enhanced air defence capability.
The French Minister of Armed Forces (Minister of Defence) Florence Parly, Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of Staff of the French Navy, and General Engineer Emmanuelle Thivillier, in charge of naval programs at the French General Directorate of Armament (DGA) as well as the Chairman and CEO of Naval Group, Pierre Eric Pommellet, alongside employees from the Lorient site participated to the launching ceremony.
The launch of the eighth French Navy’s FREMM
Fifty-four months after the start of the production, the FREMM DA Lorraine (D657) left the construction form of Naval Group site in Lorient. This operation took place on Friday 13th November 2020, fully complying with the schedule set by the Military Planning Law, while respecting the safety and health rules currently enforced.
Technical adaptations have been made on both FREMM DA such as a more powerful multifunction radar supplied by Thales, enhanced communications, three additional consoles of the Setis Combat Management System in the «central operations center» with an enhanced air defence capability through the use of Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. The FREMM DA also benefits from a new mast, optimized to increase detection performance. In addition to performing the same anti-submarine warfare missions as the previous FREMMs, the FREMM DAs will be responsible for the air defence of major units: Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, or amphibious helicopter carriers (PHA) as part of the naval or amphibious air group.
More generally, the FREMM frigates integrate the evolution of systems over time to ensure the latest units of the series benefit from the latest technologies such as: additional cyber capabilities, deployment of Liaison 22 (liaison between NATO military units), integration of a tactical digital table, etc.
Meeting the operational requirements of the French Armament Procurement Agency (DGA)
«Throughout this demanding program, we have maintained close ties with our customer, in order to best respond to the expectations and the technological challenges regarding the onboard innovations. This feedback led us to change our industrial organization. Modular construction, supply chain optimization and block pre-fabrication have reduced construction lead times and, ultimately, production costs. As a result, we have gained in efficiency and performance, while at the same time improving the working conditions of our employees, which has led to a considerable reduction in accidents at work. We are proud to launch today the latest French FREMM»! declared Laurent Espinasse, Executive Vice-President for Industry at Naval Group.
Naval Group’s site in Lorient offers industrial infrastructures that enable us to meet the technical and technological challenges of the latest generations of military ships, including a 15,000 m2 covered construction form.
The design tools and methods have evolved considerably during the FREMM program thanks to virtual reality. All of the ship’s data, including equipment operating data, is integrated into a digital mock-up. The infrastructures have also been modernized, including the extension and renovation of the construction nave, the installation of three covered paint booths and the extension of the quay.
Ensuring the preservation of key competencies
To deliver frigates with the required military performance, Naval Group has mobilized no less than 250 skills throughout the program. Some of them are very specific and rare and are often the result of a long or even very long acquisition: sheet metal carpenter, formator-straightener, hull welder, pipe fitter…
Naval Group promotes the recruitment of young talents and has recruited 400 work-study students since the beginning of the year and even during the sanitary crisis. This is 50 more than in 2019 and Naval Group site in Lorient is home to 58 of them.
Naval Group is also implementing specific training programs to develop these rare and unique skills, through the introduction of the certificate of joint qualification of metallurgy (CQPM). This certification training, takes place alternatively in a training organization and in industrial workshops over twelve months. A CQPM carpenter-sheet metal worker was opened in September 2019, in collaboration with the IUMM of Lorient, at a Naval Group site in Lorient.
Technical characteristics of FREMM DA
The FREMM program has been running on a stable schedule since the last Military Planning Law. Eight units of the FREMM series have been delivered between 2012 and 2019. Aquitaine (D650) in 2012, Provence (D652) in 2015, Languedoc (D653) in 2016, Auvergne (D654) in April 2017, Bretagne (D655) in July 2018 and Normandie (D651) in July 2019. Alsace (D656) was launched on April 18, 2019 and will be delivered in 2021. Internationally, the Mohammed VI (701) was delivered to Morocco in 2014 and the Tahya Misr (FFG-1001) was delivered in Egypt in 2015.
FREMM DA Alsace (D656) is heavily armed and uses the most powerful weapons systems and equipment such as the Herakles multifunction radar, the Aster 15 and 30 and Exocet MM 40 missiles and the MU 90 torpedoes. The performance of her combat system is enhanced with increased radar and communication capabilities, new radar and electro-optical fire control and a SETIS Combat Management System with specific air defence functions.
466 feet/142 m
65.6 feet/20 m
27 knots/31 mph/50 km/h
123 persons (+ 14 people for the helicopter detachment)
Naval Group delivered on 06 November 2020 the Suffren (S635) nuclear attack submarine (SSN) to the French Armament Procurement Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement) at the Toulon naval base. Intended for the French Navy, the Suffren is the first in a series of six SSN that will gradually replace the submarines of the Rubis-class. The delivery of the Suffren took place today in the presence of a small number of high-ranking personalities, due to the health crisis. Florence Parly, French Minister of Defence, General François Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces, Joël Barre, Delegate General for Armament, Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of Staff of the French Navy, Victor Salvetti, Director of military applications at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Pierre Eric Pommellet, CEO Naval Group, and Loïc Rocard, CEO TechnicAtome, all welcomed this major milestone of the Barracuda program, in the presence of several representatives of the political, industrial and military worlds, including crew members.
Launched in 1998 by the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA), the Barracuda program renews the submarine component of the French nuclear deterrence capability consisting of six Rubis-class submarines that entered service in the early 1980s. The associated development contract was notified at the end of 2006. More than ten years of studies were required to define a submarine that meets the French Navy’s operational requirements. This first delivery is the beginning of a phase leading to the qualification of this new class.
The delivery of the six submarines will take place over a decade. With a lifespan of more than 30 years, the Suffren-class submarines will be the backbone of the French submarine forces until at least 2060, making it one of the major weapon systems of this century.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, CEO Naval Group, declared: «What a long way Naval Group has come with its industrial and governmental partners since the first metal sheet was cut on December 10, 2007, less than a year after the DGA had signed the acquisition contract. The industrial challenges have been numerous. I salute the commitment of Naval Group’s design and production teams, of TechnicAtome – the prime contractor for the onboard nuclear boiler room – as well as those of the DGA, the CEA and the French Navy. Hundreds of French companies – both large and small, at the forefront of which Naval Group stands, have been and continue to be mobilised for the construction of this program. This initial success can only strengthen our collective commitment to deliver the next unit of the Barracuda series, the Duguay-Trouin, in 2022, followed by the other four submarines by the end of the decade».
The construction of these Barracuda submarines mobilises a wide range of exceptional know-how in the most advanced technologies.
Among these, the very special steels, underwater acoustics performances, and the weapon systems make the SSN Barracuda one of the most efficient submarines in the world.
The Barracuda submarines, with their navigation and communication means and their centralised and automated control are also more manoeuvrable and mobile. Another major innovation is the optronic mast, which replaces the telescopic mast, ensuring better collection of visual information and better sharing of this information among the crew. This new feature, combined with advanced detection capabilities, guarantees the superiority of Barracuda submarines in their intelligence missions.
The Barracuda series also offers the French Navy a real combat superiority with, for the first time, a deep strike capability thanks to MBDA Naval Cruise Missiles (NCM). They can also use the Naval Group new Naval Group heavy torpedo F21 as well as MBDA SM39 missiles. The Barracuda submarines also enable the discreet and enhanced deployment of special forces.
This technological and capability leap is the result of more than twenty years of collective work between Naval Group and hundreds of partners of the European defence industrial and technological base. A total of 2,500 men and women (including around 800 from Naval Group subcontractors) are contributing to the design and production of the Barracuda submarines.
All Naval Group sites are currently mobilised for the next five Barracuda submarines. The second of the Barracuda series, the Duguay-Trouin, whose sections will be fully joined by the end of this year, will be delivered in 2022. The third, the Tourville, is being integrated at the side of the Duguay-Trouin. At the Naval Group site in Nantes-Indret, the assembly of the propulsion system and of the nuclear boiler module of the fourth, the De Grasse, is also underway. Finally, Naval Group teams have begun forming the first elements of the hulls of the fifth and sixth submarines, the Rubis and the Casabianca, as well as elements of their nuclear boiler modules.
The infrastructures at the Toulon naval base have been modernised to accommodate this new generation of submarines: «We are ready and very proud to work on the through-life support of the Suffren (S635) in Toulon», said Vincent Vimont, Director of the SSN Operational Maintenance Program at Naval Group.
The project started with definition studies in 2014 and mobilised around 200 people from Naval Group and from 15 subcontractors. Two other basins will also be modernised in the coming years. The teams at the Naval Group Toulon site, specialised in the through-life support of submarines, have been trained in the new technical specifications of the submarine and in the use of the new facilities. They are now qualified to carry out maintenance operations on the Suffren (S635) and her sisterships.
«We managed to optimise the sea trials phase within a 6-month schedule, including 100 days at sea! By comparison, for the Rubis-class it was 15 months! This is the first time that a new vessel has been able to sail twice in a continuous one-month period during her sea trials phase. This demonstrated the submarine’s endurance to our client. To improve our work efficiency, we reduced the number of ashore trials and optimised sea trials», says Philippe Nezondet, head of Suffren (S635) trials at Naval Group.
The sea trials – conducted by the DGA as the ship is manned by the French Navy – aim at proofing the Suffren capacities and the conformity to the ship specifications in order to qualify the Barracuda submarines. These sea trials represent an intense validation phase for a nuclear submarine’s on-board installations. The operations conducted progressively over several test campaigns have made it possible to ensure that the vessel is watertight underwater, that she can be properly maneuvered, but also to assess the performance of the combat system, tactical weapons and all the high-tech equipment on-board. These tests were concluded with the firing of the SM39 missile on September 23, and of the Naval Cruise Missile (NCM) on October 20. The NCM is a major advantage of the Barracuda submarines over their predecessors: French submarines will now be able to fire underwater and hit a land-based target several hundred kilometres away. This new capability guarantees the technological superiority of French Navy ships.
Technical characteristics of the Suffren-class SSN
On October 20, 2020, the Suffren, the first of the six nuclear attack submarines (ANS) of the Barracuda program, successfully completed a Naval Cruise Missile (MdCN) test firing off the DGA Essais de Missiles site at Biscarrosse (Landes).
Florence Parly salutes this success: «For the first time, a French submarine has fired a cruise missile. This success gives our Navy a new strategic capability and places it among the best in the world. This new weapon is a real breakthrough, the fruit of years of effort and investment, notably permitted by the 2019-2025 military programming law. I congratulate all those – French Navy, DGA, industry – who made this firing possible. French submarine forces could hitherto strike submarines and surface ships. They can now destroy heavy land infrastructure at long ranges».
This firing enabled the qualification of the integration of all the armaments of the Suffren, carried out as part of the ship’s sea trials conducted by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) since last April.
This success marks an important stage in the tests of the Suffren with a view to its overall qualification by the DGA. Her delivery to the French Navy will take place by the end of 2020, before her admission to active service in 2021.
Prepared by teams from the DGA, the French Navy and the manufacturers MBDA and Naval Group, this test firing of the MdCN naval cruise missile is the latest milestone in a series of tests which has made it possible to verify the correct operation of the weapons and, more generally, of the combat system of the Suffren.
With a range of several hundred kilometers, the MdCN can attack and destroy infrastructure targets having a high strategic value. After the Multi-Mission Frigates (FREMM), the Suffren nuclear attack submarines are the first French submarines equipped with this conventional deep strike capability.
The ability to fire the MoNC from a submarine poses a constant and undetected threat of a strike from the sea against inland targets. It very significantly increases the penetration capability of French weapons in theaters of operations.
During her trials in the Mediterranean, Suffren also successfully carried out, off the DGA Missile Tests site based on the Île du Levant (Var), a test firing of an Exocet SM39-type anti-ship missile. She also carried out several test firings of the F21 heavy torpedo. This new-generation weapon is ultimately intended for all French Navy submarines.
The qualification of the entire Suffren weapons system paves the way for the end of sea trials and its overall qualification. This will allow her delivery to the French Navy for the verification of her military characteristics and then her admission to active service.