Barracuda / Suffren (class)
Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine
Some six total boats will make up the new Barracuda-Suffren-class of the modern French Navy - these used to succeed the aging Rubis-class boats.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The modern French Navy relies on two distinct nuclear-powered submarine types to fulfill its undersea requirements, the "Triomphant-class" and the "Rubis-class". The former numbers four boats, displaces in the 14,335 tonnes range, and fulfills the all-important Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) role while the latter has six boats built to the standard, displaces 2,660 tonnes, and is used in the traditional attack submarine (SSN) role. The Rubis-class is earmarked for replacement by the all-new "Barracuda-class", or Suffren-class (named after the planned lead-ship, FS Suffren), which will come online in 2019 or 2020 with the French Navy.
Back in 1998, French authorities acknowledged the need for a new, all-modern nuclear-powered attack submarine and green-lighted an initiative to find a successor for the aging fleet of Rubis-class boats. The Rubis-class was born in the latter stages of the Cold War (1947-1991) period with the first of six boats commissioned in 1983 (though eight were originally planned). The new Barracuda-/Suffren-class is set to encompass six total boats of which three have begun construction as of this writing (2019) and a further three are planned.
DCNS heads the Barracuda-class initiative. The planned ships in the series are FS Suffren, FS Duguay-Trouin, FS Tourville, FS Dupetit-Thouars, FS Duquesne, and FS De Grasse.
The propulsion scheme is set to include a K15 series 50MW nuclear reactor offering 67,000 horsepower output as well as 2 x Turboreductor packs (13,000 horsepower) made up of propulsion alternators driving electric engines. The scheme will also include a single pump-jet and 2 x Backup electric engines. Planned speeds will reach over 25 knots under water (reduced to 14 knots when surfaced) and feature unlimited range - the inherent benefit of a nuclear-based propulsion scheme. The nuclear reactor is rated for 10 years of consistent service before refueling but carries with it inherent dangers to the crew and ship alike (not to mention recycling/disposal difficulties to be had at the end of its service life).
The crew will be a modest complement of sixty made up of twelve officers and forty-eight enlisted and these personnel will have access to a 70 -day supply of food stores, limiting the true operational range/endurance window of this new boat. It is expected to also house equipment and a sheltered area for supporting French special operations forces.
Armament will center on 4 x 533mm (21") torpedo tubes supporting the latest heavy-class French torpedo family as well as anti-ship/land-attack missiles and naval mines.
The Barracuda-/Suffren-class also forms the basis of the "Shortfin Barracuda-class", a diesel-electric offshoot, set to join the inventory of the Royal Australian Navy around 2030. This boat is detailed elsewhere on this site and carries over many of the promising features of the nuclear-powered form.