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The first of six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) in France’s BARRACUDA programme has successfully completed the test firing of Missile de Croisière Naval (MdCN) naval cruise missile. The firing completes the qualification phase of the integration of all the vessel’s weapon systems, carried out as part of its sea trials, conducted by France’s Defence Procurement Agency, the DGA, since last April. This success marks a key stage in the trials of SUFFREN, the lead boat in the class, with a view to its final qualification by the DGA.

The SUFFREN will be delivered to the French Navy by the end of 2020, before entering active service in 2021. This test firing after careful preparation by teams from the DGA, the French Navy and manufacturers MBDA and NAVAL GROUP, is the last milestone in a series of tests designed to verify the correct functioning of the SUFFREN’s armaments and its combat system in general.

Strike Capability

With a range of several hundred kilometres, the MdCN is tailored for missions against infrastructure of high strategic value. After the FREMM Multi-Mission Frigates, the SUFFREN class SSNs are the first French vessels to be equipped with this conventional deep strike capability. The ability to deploy the MdCN from submarines maintains the constant and undetected threat of a strike from the sea against enemy targets located far inland, and very significantly increases the penetration capacity of French weapons in military theatres of operation.

During its trials in the Mediterranean, the SUFFREN also successfully completed the test firing of an EXOCET SM39 underwater-launched anti-ship missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre on Île du Levant. This was in addition to several test firings of the F21 heavy torpedo, a next-generation weapon that will ultimately be carried on all French Navy submarines. The validation of the SUFFREN’s entire combat system paves the way for the end of sea trials and its overall qualification, which will enable it to be delivered to the French Navy for final verification of its military characteristics and commissioning for active service.

Jack Richardson