CHERBOURG: Just two days ahead of Bastille Day, French shipbuilder Naval Group on July 12 launched the first of class of Barracuda type nuclear-attack submarine, the Suffren at its facility in Cherbourg, located in the Normandy region. The ceremony was officiated by French president Emmanuel Macron. Also present was the republic’s defence minister, Florence Parly, French Army Chief of Staff Francois Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the French Navy Admiral Christophe Prazuck, and senior officials of the French government, and the French defence procurement agency (DGA). Naval Group’s Chief Executive Officer Hervé Guillou headed the company’s personnel who were involved in the project.
The event which marked an important milestone in the history of French submarine development also saw senior government officials from Naval Group’s partner nations for submarine programmes which comprises Australia, Brazil, Chile, India, and Malaysia. Seen at the ceremony were Australia’s defence minister, Linda Reynolds and the country’s Vice Chief of Defence Force Vice Admiral David Johnston. Naval Group has won the biggest contract in Australia’s defence procurement programme – the $35 billion-dollar deal for the country’s Future Submarine Programme to replace Royal Australia Navy’s ageing fleet of Collins-class submarines which has been n service since 1996. The Australian government in February this year inked the contract for the construction of 12 new Shortfin Barracuda submarines, christened the Attack-class, which is the diesel-electric derivative of the Barracuda. India operates the P-75 submarines, the elongated version of the Scorpene designed by Naval Group. Six submarines are built indigenously for the Indian Navy by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai. Malaysia operates two Scorpene-class submarines –KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and KD Tun Abdul Razak. Brazil ordered four modified Scorpene submarines for its Navy, of which the first one, the Riachuelo was launched mid-December last year. The second vessel, Humaita is being readied for launch. The Chilean Navy operates two Scorpenes.
In his speech, President Macron stressed the importance of the Barracuda programme, not only for the French defence industry, but also to all France’s allies throughout the world. “France is country that highly emphasis the value of long-term partnership,” he said. Beginning from the launch of the first French submarine in Cherbourg, France submarine manufacturing capability has evolved through times, with a historical milestone reached with the launch of Le Redoutable, France’s first nuclear powered missile-launching submarine in 1967.
Now the launch of the first Barracuda type submarine – the Suffren, has proven the French technological know-how, and symbolises the France’s independence, he said. The building of the Suffren is a symbol of sovereignty, freedom of movement and France’s maritime power, he added. The president also stressed the country’s desire to maintain the defence industry for French defence, and pushing forward the capability of the country’s small-medium sized (SMEs) in the industry’s supply chain.
President Macron also impressed on France’s support in the construction of Australia’s Attack-class submarines. “The Indo-Pacific region is of strategic importance to France,” he said, “and Australia is an ally of France, not only in terms of industrial partnership, but also in terms of partnership between nations.”
The Barracuda type nuclear-attack submarine has over 60 years of life cycle starting from the design phase up till commissioning. The French Navy is slated to have six submarines of the type. The first of class, Suffren is named after a French admiral, Pierre André de Suffren who led the French Navy into victory in several wars. The submarine is able to accommodate up to 65 crews including commandos, and designed to support special operation missions. The Barracuda fleet is meant to replace the Rubis-class subs which have been in service of the French Navy since 1976. Five other Barracuda submarines in various stages of construction – the Duguay-Trouin, the Tourville, the de-Grasse, Rubis and Casabianca will be delivered by 2025. –AA/MGM