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On board the SNA Suffren, the new flagship of the French Navy – France

Pipes, electric cables, collectors. Everything is brand new aboard the Suffren, the latest of the French nuclear attack submarines (SNA), which the French Navy revealed, for the first time, Thursday, in Toulon, the entrails to a few journalists. Moored at the quayside between two sea trial campaigns “which will leave nothing to chance”, the seed of the six Barracuda class SNAs replacing the current Rubis types, which are entering their third decade of operational life, will be admitted to the service “in the next few months”, promise the authorities.

The Barracuda Suffren class SNA sails south of Toulon, during sea trials. (Photo Axel Manzano / French Navy)

With 120 days at sea and 3000 hours of diving, the Suffren has already sailed to the warm waters of the equator. He tested the full range of his weapons, his new combat swimmers extraction chamber. And demonstrated his “extreme discretion which opens up the tactical field of possibilities”, smiles the commander of the “red” crew, Commander Antoine Richebé (38).

Exit the traditional periscopic mast

In the central operations, the nervous system of the ship, the latest flat screens line the walls. To starboard are the consoles of the sonars and the “golden ear”; on the port side, the weapon installation consoles. A screen replicates the images taken by the cameras of the optronic mast scanning the surface.

In the middle of the room, instead of the traditional deleted periscope mast, a tactile tactical table sits. It allows the commander to take in the surroundings of the building at a glance. If the pilot lost his helm in favor of two joysticks, the “fast flush valves” above his head have been retained: this traditional mechanism is activated when nothing is working to make the submarine go up. the surface. Safety comes first.

More room for the reactor and weapons

Thanks to the multiplication of digital controls, the Suffren sails with 63 sailors against 70 on the Rubies, while she is twice as large (5,100 tonnes). However, the living spaces have not grown. The supplement has been absorbed, at the rear, by the reactor, whose power has increased and, at the front, by the enormous weapons room, which can store up to 20. The cradles contain anti-missiles. -Exocet SM39 ships, Naval Cruise Missiles (MDCN) and the new F21 heavy torpedoes.

On board the SNA Suffren, the new flagship of the French Navy – France
Arrival of the SNA Suffren, Tuesday July 28, 2020, for the first time at the Toulon naval base. (Loïc Bernardin archive photo / French Navy)

Towards the middle of the ship, the engineers also installed two gigantic refrigerators which provide 70 days of food for the crew, an unprecedented autonomy. And everywhere, they have optimized discretion. The arrival of the Suffren, explains Captain Jérôme Colonna d’Istria, the Toulon squadron commander, triggered a “complex and dense phase” of transformation. It began, in 2016, by training the first sailors on specific simulators and adaptation work on quays and maintenance basins. The Barracuda will only make one technical stop per year. Another feat.

For all those who observe the first steps of the Suffren, the signal sent is already very clear, we rejoice in Toulon: the new generation of French ANS is more discreet, more autonomous and much more armed.

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