Neither bugle nor crier in public: despite the event that this represents for the French naval forces, the arrival in its base port of Suffren, the brand new French nuclear attack submarine (SNA), has not been the subject of any prior communication from the Ministry of the Armed Forces. The ship is to emerge in the harbor of Toulon on Sunday July 26, before joining the quays of the SNA squadron on Wednesday.
The Suffren, first of the six Barracuda class submarines, comes from the Cherbourg (Manche) shipyards where it completed the first part of its tests, under the supervision of the French industrialist Naval Group and the responsibility of the General Management armament. He also validated his diving and speed skills in the Atlantic. The crew of the Suffren must take a little rest, before continuing to start the boat: after having checked its propulsion and maneuverability in the English Channel, it will test its combat system in the Mediterranean, until October.
But the serious fire that endangered on June 13 its elder, the submarine Perle, weighs down the atmosphere. The ship, born in 1993, was also at the shipyard, in Toulon, for a complete renovation that was to extend its operational life in the strategic oceanic force until at least 2030. The SNA was subjected for fourteen hours to an intense blaze. Just after the fire, specialists estimated that the Perle might have suffered too much damage to her thick hull to sail again.
Possible restoration for the “Pearl”
The Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, had asked for the first technical elements “For July”, so that the armies have an idea of the repairability of the ship. The investigations are delayed and their conclusions have not yet reached him, although the ministry specifies that “It should not delay”.
The results are kept in secrecy, because of the litigation which will not fail to intervene between the French Navy and Naval Group, responsible for the ship during the work. The latter was delayed, which was accentuated by the confinement of workers during the Covid-19 epidemic, already causing tensions between the staff and the company.
If a repair of the Perle is possible, it will remain to evaluate the cost, which could be dissuasive for the budget of the armies. If its destruction is confirmed, another human, technical and financial challenge presents itself, that of accelerating the Barracuda program. It represents an investment of more than 9 billion euros. The last SNA is due for delivery in 2029. These ships will be in use until the 2060s.
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