According to the French Navy (Marine Nationale), SSNs (known as nuclear attack submarines or SNA in French) are true power instruments, combining long endurance and discretion. Their missions include support of deterrence (SSBNs), protection of the carrier strike group, intelligence, underwater warfare…
Saphir is the second of the six Bubis-class SSNs. Her keel was laid on 1 September 1979 in Cherbourg. She entered active duty on July 6, 1984. Today, Saphir has sailed an impressive 1,200,000 nautical miles and spent more than 120,000 hours diving (more than 13 years).
Saphir has participated in many missions from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean and from the Far North to the South American coast. Among the iconic operations: Balbuzard in 1993, Kotor in 1999, Harmattan in 2011.
Saphir has reached Cherbourg on July 3rd, to be dismantled.
Referring to the renewal of the French submarine force and the replacement of the Rubis-class by Suffren-class SSN, Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, said on June 24:
“In a few days, an historical transition is going to be realized, but beyond the symbol, it is all the French excellence which is demonstrated during these two events: first an SSN which for decades never failed in its mission, then the arrival of a technological gem that will allow France to keep its status and its rank of military power. I congratulate all the Saphir submariners, past and present, their professionalism commands admiration. ”
Naval Group is set to launch Suffren, the first Barracuda type SSN, during a ceremony on July 12. According to Naval Group, Barracuda was designed to integrate the latest innovations and enhance the French SSN fleet’s performance for the future.
Fitted with four weapon tubes, The Suffren-class will be able to deploy Naval Group’s new heavyweight torpedo (the F21), MBDA’s Exocet SM39 Block 2 Mod 2 Anti-ship missile, MBDA’s Naval Cruise Missile for land attack. It will also be able to deploy FG29 mines and, down the road, drones such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). It will be able to deploy special forces and their equipment (such as a new Swimmer Delivery Vehicle called PSM3G and built by ECA Group) thanks to a modular (mission specific) Dry Deck Shelter or DDS.
The strike against land-based targets is a new capability for the French submarine forces while the ability to deploy special forces on a large scale and while submerged is an important capability increase compared to the Rubis-class.