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France launches programme to develop next-generation ballistic missile submarine

Warship Technology: March 2021WT Mar 21 RSS Submarines


French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly has announced the launch of the development phase of a third generation of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs).


Preparatory studies for the SNLE 3G were undertaken by the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) and the French armed forces. France’s 2019-2025 military programming law provides that the 3G SSBNs will replace the current Le Triomphant class SSBNs as they are withdrawn from service, from 2035, in order to ensure the continuity of deterrence posture, with at least one SSBN on patrol at sea at all times.


As it enters the full-scale development phase the SNLE 3G programme will continue to be led by the DGA, which is in charge of the overall project, in collaboration with the Military Applications Department of the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA/DAM), which is responsible for nuclear propulsion. Naval Group will provide overall project management for the construction of the submarines, working with TechnicAtome for the construction of nuclear reactor for the submarines.


In her statement, the Minister said the first contract, which will be notified in 2021, covers development studies until the end of 2025, the realisation of the first elements of the hull and the reactor room of the first SNLE 3G. It also covers preparation of facilities specific to the construction of the new ballistic-missile submarines at Naval Group. The Minister also confirmed that, once in service, the SNLE 3G will carry future versions of the M51 ballistic missile.


The Minister said development and construction of 3G SNLEs “will capitalise on the achievements of the 2G SNLE programme and Barracuda nuclear-powered attack submarines.”


Compared to their predecessors, the SNLE 3G SSBNs will have several important advances, including improved acoustic discretion, better hydrodynamics, increased manoeuvrability and quieter propulsion. The stealth of the submarines will be enhanced with the use of new coatings and they will be fitted with new, more advanced underwater detection technology.