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“Great adventure”: Naval starts construction of new nuclear submarine

Caption: © Naval Group

Shortly after the much-discussed decision by the Netherlands to place an order with Naval Group, the French state-owned shipyard has started building a nuclear submarine for the country’s navy.

Naval Group has now confirmed the start of construction of the first French nuclear submarine with third-generation ballistic missiles (SNLE 3G).[ds_preview] The steel cutting took place in Cherbourg on Wednesday. The new construction is intended to ensure France’s nuclear deterrent until the end of the 21st century.

For Naval, it is a project that is as important as it is prestigious, as the company wants to position itself – not least in competition with TKMS from Germany – as the submarine builder of choice in Europe. This is why the Dutch government’s – provisional – decision not to place domestic orders with Damen or with Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems in Germany has attracted some attention. The Dutch also want to increase their share of naval shipbuilding, for example in Germany, where they had already secured an important and much-discussed order.

Pierre Eric Pommellet CEO Naval Group
Pierre Eric Pommellet (Photo: Naval)

The SSBNs are among the most complex systems and are considered the cornerstone of the French strategic naval force to ensure nuclear deterrence at sea.

Launched in February 2021, the SNLE 3G program for the French Navy brings together the armed forces, the French Procurement Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement – DGA), which is responsible for the overall project management, the French Atomic Energy Agency (CEA) and the Naval Group, which is responsible for the overall project management of the submarines, in collaboration with TechnicAtome.

Pierre Éric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group, said: “With this important program, Naval Group is fully committed to French sovereignty and nuclear deterrence by mobilising all its skills, talents and industrial resources, relying on a solid industrial and technological defence base spread throughout the country.”

The program’s first follow-on contract, awarded in February 2021, includes development studies until the end of 2025, long lead-time procurement, production of the first components for the hull and boiler room of the first third-generation SSBN, and adaptation of Naval Group’s manufacturing resources to the specific requirements of the third-generation SSBN.

“Great adventure for Naval”

Production of the main components of the nuclear boiler room and propulsion system, in particular the tank for the 1st SSBN 3G has already begun at Naval Group’s Nantes-Indret site. “With 125 years of experience in submarine construction in Cherbourg, Naval Group has a unique know-how inherited from the builders of previous generations of ships, as well as skills developed to adapt to the evolving threats and expectations of the Navy,” says the French company.

With the SNLE 3G program, the Naval Group has “embarked on a major new industrial adventure” involving all its sites in France, with the aim of building the largest submarine ever built in France.

The construction of a SNLE-3G submarine requires the integration of nearly 100,000 devices and hundreds of kilometers of cables and circuits. The program is intended to benefit the entire French naval industry: Over several decades, almost 90% of the added value of the SNLE 3G program will be produced in France. More than 400 companies are involved.

Compared to their predecessors, the 3rd generation submarines will have a number of technological advances, an enhanced reconnaissance capability with sensors at the highest technological level, better stealth and hydrodynamics and manoeuvrability.

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