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Le Triomphant (S616)

Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine

Naval Warfare / Ships

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Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.

Unfortunately, the Triomphant S616 nuclear ballistic missile submarine of the French Navy is perhaps best known for her underwater collision with the British HMS Vanguard submarine in 2009.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 9/25/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Le Triomphant (S616) (translating to "The Triumphant") is a modern French Navy nuclear ballistic missile submarine developed in the late 1980s and constructed during the early 1990s. She became the lead ship of her class, heading the "Triomphant-class" that now includes the Temeraire (S617), Terrible (S618) and the Vigilant (S619). The Triomphant had her keel laid down on June 9th, 1989 and was launched on March 26th, 1994. She was constructed by Direction des Constructions et Armes Navales (DCN) at the shipyard in Cherbourg. After completing the requisite sea trials, she was officially commissioned on March 21st, 1997 and currently maintains an active position in the French Fleet (2012). She makes her home port out of Ile Longue ("Long Island") in the northwestern Atlantic waters off France. The Triomphant, and many of her kind around the world, are primarily utilized as a national deterrent forced by the advent of nuclear energy (and subsequently nuclear world powers with nuclear-tipped weapons). The Triomphant is a powerful breed of submarine and comparable to all other modern types anywhere in the world, made deadly by her ability to assail target areas with precision through her stock of nuclear weapons. At the time of her formal inception in 1998, the Triomphant-class became the primary nuclear attack submarine in the French arsenal.

Outwardly, the Triomphant takes on a conventional design with a well-streamlined and clean hull featuring a tubular shape with a tapered bow and stern. The sail is fitted at amidships with applicable dive planes along either side of the tower. Her power comes from a K15 series pressurized water nuclear reactor which provides up to 25 knots full speed (submerged) and essentially unlimited operational ranges - allowing the Triomphant to respond to French interests anywhere in the world. The service life of the K15 reactor is listed at between to 20 to 25 years before requiring replacement. Internally, the craft is crewed by 110 personnel including 15 officers and these men are further divided into scheduled shift groups. Sensors include a Thomson-Sintra DMUX 80 multi-function (passive bow and sides), DUUX 5 (passive ranging intercept) and DSUV 61B (towed array) series sonar facilities as well as a Racal Decca radar system. Electronic countermeasures are provided through the Thomson-CSF ARUR-13/DR 3000U ESM system. Surface displacement of the vessel is approximately 14,000 short tons with a submerged displacement of 15,800 short tons. Overall length is 138 meters with a beam of 12.5 meters and a draught of 10.60 meters.

As with any attack submarine, the heart and soul of the Triomphant is her storage of ballistic missiles. She carries 16 x M45 SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) missiles, each capped with a TN 75 (6 x 110 kiloton thermonuclear) warhead and powered by a three-stage solid fuel engine (each missile manages power roughly ten times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War 2). These missiles can reach land-based targets out to 6,000 kilometers and are guided by an inertial/digitally-based system. The missiles stand some 11 meters tall and sit vertically in their launch tubes fitted into the boat's hull (aft of the fin). Largely a deterrent measure, the M45 - in the event of all out-war - can be launched from the vessel while the submarine remains underwater. Beyond her base nuclear payload, the Triomphant is further outfitted with 4 x 533mm (21") torpedo tubes which fire the F17 series torpedo. The F17 has a range out to 20 kilometers and utilizes a wire-guided system through active/passive homing measures. The torpedo is capped by a 250 kilogram warhead suitable for destroying all manner of man-made ocean-going targets. The Triomphant can also deploy the Exocet SM39 series anti-ship missile against enemy surface threats at range. The missile, having seen service since 1973, has been proven a sound anti-ship measure.

After being commissioned in 1997, the Triomphant was put into general patrolling service. She entered a period of refit and repair in 2002 and this work lasted nearly 2.5 years. In 2004, it was unveiled that her nuclear reactor was leaking which led to repairs and subsequent public reassurance. Perhaps the most notable event concerning the Triomphant's operational service life to date was its colliding with the Royal Navy's HMS Vanguard in Atlantic waters in February of 2009. The Triomphant taking damage to her hull housing the very expensive sonar equipment. She was then relocated to the port of Brest for repairs. At the time of the accident, both vessels were armed with their nuclear ballistic missile armament. No loss of life was reported and both boats were able to sail under their own power back to their respective ports for repair.

The French Navy recognizes their nuclear ballistic missile submarines as "SNLE" for "Sous-marin Nucleaire Lanceur d'Engine" ("Nuclear-Powered, Device-Launching Submarine").


Commissioned, in Active Service
110 Personnel
Ship Class [ Triomphant-class ]
Ships-in-Class [ 4 ] Ship Names: Le Triomphant (S616); Le Temeraire (S617); Le Vigilant (S618); Le Terrible (S619)
National flag of France France
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
- Hunter
- Direct-Attack
452.75 ft (138.00 m)
Width / Beam:
41 ft (12.50 m)
Height / Draught:
34.77 ft (10.60 m)
Displacement (Surface):
13,933 tons
Displacement (Submerged):
15,801 tons
1 x Pressurized water K15 nuclear reactor; turboreductor system; Pump-Jet; 2 SEMT Pielstick diesel-alternators; 8PA4V200 SM auxiliary motors.
Speed (Surface):
25 kts (29 mph)
Essentially Unlimited
16 x M45 SLBM nuclear TN 75-tipped missiles
4 x 533mm torpedo tubes; F17 torpedoes
Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile launcher

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