Lighting is said to be the cause of the fire that broke out aboard French Navy Rubis-Class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) Perle in June.
“I am able to tell you that we can repair Perle and that we will repair the Perle“
The decision comes after several investigations were thoroughly conducted. Minister Parly added that the repair work will be conducted at Naval Group’ submarine shipyard in Cherbourg and will involve 300 people over a period of six months.
Parly explained that during the fire which lasted 13 hours, the high temperature altered the the quality of the submarine’ steel in the forward section of the hull. As a consequence, the forward section of Perle will be cut off and the forward section of another Rubis-class SSN, the Saphir, will be welded back to Perle‘s aft section. This was a solution which Naval News mentioned back in early September. The Rubis-class SSN Saphir (second boat of the class) was decommissioned in July 2019.
“My priority is to give back to our country its operational capacities while ensuring the safety of the sailors […] I have confidence in our industry, engineers, technicians, welders…”
Naval Group’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Gaudez, issued the following statement:
The decision of the Minister of the Armed Forces is a mark of confidence in Naval Group. We understand the responsibility that falls on us. Naval Group will replace the bow section of the damaged submarine with that of the SNA Saphir, which was decommissioned in 2019. Naval Group has already carried out this type of complex operation in the past. This is a succession of cutting, welding and connection tasks already carried out by the teams of Naval Group and its partners. The thick hull cutting and welding work will be entrusted to the Cherbourg site. The other preparatory work that will be necessary on the front of the SSN Saphir will be carried out by the Services teams, in particular those at the Toulon site. Engineering work combining design and management of changes will be carried out before the start of repair work. Repair operations are compatible with the constraints of the Barracuda program and the resources dedicated to the Barracuda program are preserved. Repair operations will begin in January 2021 when the Pearl arrives in Cherbourg. Delivery is scheduled for early 2023.
About Perle’s fire
For the record, on June 12, at 10:35 am, a fire broke out in the fore zone of the Rubis-class SSN Perle in a basin within the naval base of Toulon (South of France). The blaze was put out at 12:50 am the next day, after more than 14 hours of a fight that mobilized a hundred firefighters and more than 150 sailors in support.
Perle’s fire leaves a capability gap affecting the French submarine force as well as the security of the French nuclear deterrence. The French Navy is left with only 4 operational SSN. The next class of SSN, the first ship-in-class Suffren , which started sea trials this year, won’t be fully operational until 2021.
About French Navy Rubis-class SSN
According to Covert Shores’ World Submarines Recognition Guide, The first of the six Rubis-class submarines was commissioned in 1983 and the final one in 1993. They are the smallest nuclear-powered submarines in the world with a length of just 73.6 meters and a submerged displacement of 2,600 tons.
From the beginning, the boats were disapointingly noisy and failed to achieve some of the performance objectives (such as top speed). As a consequence, the French Navy and industry embarked on the Amethyste upgrade program in 1989. AMETHYSTE stand for Amélioration tactique, hydrodynamique, silence, transmission, écoute (Silent Acoustic Transmission Tactical Hydrodynamic Improvement). It brought a number of upgrades including a major change to the hull form and bow. By 1995, all six boats of the class had been upgraded.
Rubis-class submarine specifications
- Displacement: 2,400 tons surfaced; 2,600 tons submerged
- Length: 73.6 meters (241 feet)
- Beam: 7 meters (25 feet)
- Speed: 18 knots surfaced; 25+ knots submerged
- Depth: 300 meters (984 feet) operational
- Propulsion: K48 pressurized water reactor (64,000 hp); 2x turbo-alternators; 1x 9400 hp electric motor, one shaft
- Complement: 70 sailors
- Weapon systems: 4x 533mm torpedo tubes for 14x F17 torpedo or 14x Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles
- Sensor systems: DMUX-20 active/passive sonar; DSUV-62C towed array