France heralded the future of its undersea warfighting capability with the launch of the Suffren, first in a new class of six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), at Cherbourg on 12 July. Ordered in 2006, the Suffren is part of the Barracuda program. The 326-foot boat has a 29-foot beam and a 4,600-ton surface displacement—5,300 tons submerged. Increased automation allows for a crew size of only 65. In addition to improved quieting and detection capabilities, the Suffren will be able to transport and deploy special forces by means of a diving hatch and an optional drydock shelter. The submarines are fitted with four 21-inch bow torpedo tubes and can carry naval cruise missiles for strike operations, modernized SM39 Exocet antiship missiles, and F21 wire-guided heavyweight torpedoes. The Suffren is scheduled to enter service in the early 2020s. All six submarines of the class are expected to be delivered by 2030 to replace the current Améthyste-class (also known as Rubis-class) SSNs, which entered service between 1983 and 1993.
By Eric Wertheim