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French Navy Celebrates its 500th SSBN Deterrent Patrol

By Xavier Vavasseur - Editor in Chief
The French Navy (Marine Nationale) celebrated today the 500th patrol of a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) at the base of l'Île Longue, Britanny, home of the four French SSBNs. The event was attended by Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, and Admiral Prazuck, Chief of Staff of the French Navy.

French Navy Celebrates its 500th SSBN Deterence Patrol 1 On March 21, 1972, the SSBN "Le Redoutable" returned from its first deterrent patrol. French Navy picture.

During the ceremony, tribute was paid to all sailors of the Strategic Oceanic Force (FOST) who maintain the French deterrence 24/4.

For more than 50 years, the nuclear deterrent has protected France against any aggression of state origin, wherever it comes from and whatever its form. French deterrence relies on two complementary components: oceanic and airborne.

During her address, Minister Parly said:
Today, it is France's sovereignty that we celebrate. It's our independence, it's our autonomy. It's our ability to to speak, to be listened to and to act. Since 1972, it is 500 SSBN patrols. 500 patrols that have held the pledge of our sovereignty under the seas. 500 patrols, as a reminder that the voice of France counts in the concert of Nations and that our vital interests are well guarded. 500 patrols as technical challenges, scientific, military and human raised.
A few days ago, "Le Terrible" came back here to L'Ile Longue, this temple of deterrence. It finds those who allow him to sail, to carry out his mission, to obey the orders of the President of the Republic. It finds all those who tomorrow will surround its maintenance, for its support, for its innovations. It finds the warmth of its family and the enthusiasm of reunion.

During this 500th patrol, "Le Terrible" had with it the confidence and the pride of France. Another SSBN, today, took over, somewhere under the seas. The 501st Patrol, like all those that will follow, brings to the open the certainty of the sovereignty of France, the guarantee of its autonomy, the voice of its independence.

French Navy Celebrates its 500th SSBN Deterence Patrol 2A few days ago, "Le Terrible" came back to L'Ile Longue. it is pictured here during the Ceremony. French Navy picture.

On March 21, 1972, the SSBN "Le Redoutable" returned from its first deterrent patrol. A few months after this first patrol, in November, began the permanence at sea of ​​the nuclear deterrent. It has never been interrupted ever since. 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, at least one SSBN is discreetly, diluted in the immensity of the oceans. Since 1972, 500 patrols have been carried out uninterruptedly. That's about 37,240 days under the sea. The 500th patrol of a SSBN was carried out during the summer of 2018.

Maintaining 46 years of uninterrupted presence illustrates the excellence of French deterrence. This permanence is indeed made possible thanks to the mobilization of the SSBN crews, the structures of support of the FOST and the French industry which contribute to the implementation and the maintenance of the submarines and their armaments.

French Navy Celebrates its 500th SSBN Deterence Patrol 3Le Triomphant-class SSBN are 138 meters long with a 14 120 tons submerged displacement. They carry 16 M51 submarine launched ballistic missiles. French Navy picture.

French Submarine Force in numbers:
3800 people including about 800 submariners among the SSBN crews, 120 sailors in the crews of the CTM (Navy Transmission Centers), 700 personnel assigned to the protection and safety of the sites, 18 units on 6 sites, 25 different jobs representing 80 qualifications, an underwater sailing school for training. Average age of submariners: 30 years old.

Main characteristics of Triomphant class
Nuclear-powered propulsion;
138 meters long and 14 120 tons submerged displacement; Carries 16 M51 submarine launched ballistic missiles;
Invulnerability at sea ensured by: the optimization of its acoustic discretion; the quality of its underwater detection system and the reliability of its means of transmissions; endurance and ergonomics that allow him to stay several months dived.

The crew
Each SSBN is armed with two crews made up of 110 sailors, including 15 officers, 85 petty officers and 10 quartermasters and sailors. Their average age is 30 years, between 18 years for the youngest and 46 years for the oldest.

These sailors conduct more than 25 different jobs on board: Atomic engineer, baker, doctor, sonar watchman...

In 2014, it was decided to launch the experimentation of the feminization of submarine crews. At the end of their training, four women successfully completed their first SSBN patrol last spring.