France launches first of new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines

Suffren ahead of launch. Photo: French defense ministry

French shipbuilder Naval Group launched the nuclear-powered attack submarine Suffren on Friday, the first of a new generation of French Navy boats built to replace the ageing Rubis-class.

Suffren is one of six units in the class funded in 2006. Development of the Barracuda program, as the undertaking is also known, started in 1998.

The lead submarine is scheduled to start first sea trials in early 2020.

The launching ceremony in Cherbourg is attended by the French president, armed forces minister, and other high-ranking military and government officials.

France expects to induct all Barracuda submarines – Suffren, Duguay-Trouin, Tourville, Dupetit-Thouars, Duquesne and De Grass – into active service by 2030.

Crewed by 90 sailors, Suffren-class submarines will carry the next-generation type F21 heavyweight torpedoes, SM39 anti-ship missiles and MdCN-type naval cruise missiles. The boats will also be fully equipped for missions with NATO naval forces and special operations.

The new generation of submarines will be able to spend up to 70 days at sea, considerably more than the 45 days achievable by the Rubis-class.

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