French Navy’s First Barracuda-Class Submarine Suffren Begins Sea Trials

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the first dive for the Suffren at sea, carried out on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, after her departure from the naval base of Cherbourg. The Suffren is the first of six Barracuda nuclear attack submarines. Led by the French Armaments Directorate (DGA), these sea trials, which will last several months, will confirm the robustness and efficiency of the submarine before its delivery to the French Navy.

French Navys First Barracuda Class Submarine Suffren Begins Sea Trials 925 001 Rendering of a French Navy Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) (Picture source: Naval Group)

With this first outing at sea, the Barracuda program passes a major milestone after the launch of Suffren, on July 12, 2019, by the President of the Republic.

Over the past eight months, the program's industrial and state teams have successfully carried out all of the Suffren dock tests which aimed to verify the proper functioning of its various systems and equipment. Three prerequisites are validated: the combat system has reached the end of its tests on land and is ready for the continuation of assessments at sea; the nuclear reactor was started at the end of 2019 after loading its fuel; Finally, in January 2020, the submarine was put afloat to validate the first leak tests.

Begun in the English Channel, these sea trials will lead the Suffren in the Atlantic and finally in the Mediterranean. Carried out under the supervision of engineers and technicians from the DGA, the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA), Naval Group and TechnicAtome, they will be carried out by submariners of the French Navy to verify, gradually, all of the ship's technical and operational capabilities. They will last several months until a delivery scheduled for later this year. During the entire phase of sea trials, the ship remains the property of Naval Group. It is placed under the responsibility of the French Navy for its operational command and as a delegated nuclear operator. As the contracting authority for the Barracuda program, the DGA is responsible for testing up the submarine until its reception and its delivery to the French Navy.

The DGA worked with the CEA, the French Navy and industrial prime contractors to allow the program to continue under specific health conditions. Since March 16, the business continuity plan for the Cherbourg site and the Barracuda program takes into account all measures to ensure the safety of the personnel.

In particular, all personnel on board for sea trials have been placed in a preventive fortnight and have been tested negative for COVID-19. Onboard, wearing a mask will be mandatory at all times and the rules of hygiene and disinfection will be strictly applied.