Nuclear Ignition of France’s Third Barracuda Submarine Tested

Naval Group and TechnicAtome have conducted the first live test of the boiler room for the French Navy’s third Barracuda-class attack submarine, SNA Tourville (S637).

Developed in Cherbourg, the capability passed a stage called “divergence,” which validated its ignition while connected to the vessel’s core nuclear reactor.

Ahead of its firing, the boiler room received authorization from the French government’s defense nuclear and radiation protection authority to ensure its safety during trials and employment.

Paris wrote that the test will be followed by the Tourville’s primary sea trials in the summer to prepare for its delivery.

“The first divergence of a reactor nuclear power is undoubtedly one of the most emotional times for our teams,” TechnicAtome CEO Loïc Rocard stated.

“I salute the quality of their work and their commitment to the success of this program started in 2006.”

“I am also delighted at the excellent collaboration we have with our partner Naval Group to carry out our mission to serve from France.”

SNA Tourville

France ordered the Tourville in 2011 to complete a six-vessel fleet to replace the nation’s aging Rubis-class submarines, in service since the 1980s. Naval Group began constructing the Tourville two years later in Cherbourg.

For the boiler room project, the company is in charge of the main components and integration tasks, while TechnicAtome focuses on the design and construction of the facility.

The simultaneous development is being supported by French Alternative Energies and the Atomic Energy Commission.

Upon completion, the Tourville is expected to enter service between 2024 and 2025.

French Navy’s third Barracuda-class attack submarine, SNA Tourville (S637)
French Navy’s third Barracuda-class attack submarine, SNA Tourville (S637). Photo: Naval Group

The three remaining Barracuda vessels, the Grasse, Rubis, and Casabianca, are now in different phases of development and are set to be handed over through 2030.

“The start of the nuclear boiler room on board the Tourville is a major event for the Barracuda program and demonstrates the excellence of the French nuclear industrial sector,” Naval Group CEO Pierre Éric Pommellet remarked.

“This event is also an opportunity to recall that French industrial facilities are fully committed to service the French Navy and the sovereignty of France in terms of naval nuclear propulsion.

The Barracuda-Class Submarine

The French Navy’s Barracuda-class submarine is 99.5 meters (326 feet) long and has a beam of 8.8 meters (28 feet).

It has a speed of 25 knots (46 kilometers/29 miles per hour) underwater and can reach depths up to 350 meters (1,150 feet).

With unlimited range, the vessel’s endurance depends on crew fatigue and supply capacity. It is operated by 12 sailors and has the capacity for over 40 personnel.

A Barracuda platform is equipped with various sensors for mine, combat management, navigation, and electronic countermeasures.

It is armed with land-attack cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, heavyweight torpedoes, and multi-purpose mines.

Suffren nuclear-powered attack submarine
Suffren, the first of France’s new Barracuda-class of nuclear-powered attack submarines was launched at a dry-dock ceremony, July 12, 2019. Image: @defense_gouv/Twitter

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