The Suffren nuclear attack submarine completes its first operational deployment. Here is what you should know about the Suffren.

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SNA Suffren (blue crew), which entered active service on June 1, 2022, returned to its carrier battle group on January 4, 2023, after its maiden operational deployment. Deployed to the Mediterranean, Suffren has participated in the ANTARES mission to defend French and European interests.

During its deployment, it has helped improve France’s ability to make decisions by increasing its understanding of and preparedness for crises in areas of strategic relevance.

The Suffren has helped prepare for future French Navy operations in the region by participating in these missions and contributing alongside other deployed ships.

Under the authority of the Task Force 473 Staff, SNA Suffren also validated its ability to carry out a land attack with a naval cruise missile (MdCN), coordinated with the other group units, in particular the multi-mission frigates. And the embarked Rafale Marine fighters.

The crew called at Souda Bay (Crete) during this operational deployment before returning to sea for the end-of-year celebrations. 

Completing a mission begun on November 22, SNA Suffren crew members were reunited with their families upon arrival at the base. The ship will now begin its annual maintenance period.

This operational deployment marks three cycles carried out by the two crews of the vessel since its departure from the dock (for maintenance) in April 2022. 

Since then, the submarine will have been available for almost 240 days, including the 190 days of its cruise. During this time, she validated her operational capabilities before being admitted to active duty.

Suffren-type SNAs perform the same functions as Rubis-class SSNs (valuable ship protection; awareness; anticipation; intervention) but with higher speed, endurance, deployment of special troops, and capacity to engage ground targets. As a result of the MdCN cruise missile on the navy’s ships).

The Suffren is the first in a series of six SSNs designed to replace 2030 Rubis-class submarines in service since the 1980s. It will allow France to make a true military leap in submarine warfare.

The induction into the active duty of a new submarine is always a big occasion. Still, the Suffren has taken on special importance due to the conflict in Ukraine, as ongoing tensions have strengthened France’s nuclear deterrence posture. 

The Suffren is a technological monster of almost 100 meters in length and 5,300 tons in weight and manufactured in Cherbourg (Normandy) by Naval Group and TechnicAtome. It’s supposed to be superior to its forerunners in terms of speed, stealth, and endurance, and it’s also armed to the teeth.

Up to 20 missiles and torpedoes, including anti-ship missiles, can be carried by it, which is twice as much as the Rubis can carry. The Suffren is also the first French submarine to be equipped to carry cruise missiles, which are long-range missiles with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers and can therefore target land infrastructure located anywhere in France.

An “airlock” has also been added for use by combat swimmers. As a result of this little detachable hangar, swimmers can now leave the submarine via the main hatch instead of the torpedo tube. In this hatch, scuba divers will find a thruster that will help them return to land quickly and easily.

France has lagged behind the likes of the USA and the UK in having access to this capability. Due to Suffren’s superior equipment, it can carry out commando actions that would be impossible for the operators of the Rubis-class submarines.

An increasingly disputed seabed

An SSN like the Suffren makes intelligence operations possible and allows France to project power, like in 2021 when another SSN was sent to the Indo-Pacific region for seven months. Ships like the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle and ballistic missile submarines are safe from harm when the Suffren is around (SSBNs).

France has raised the number of SSBNs permanently deployed at sea to two or three (depending on the source) to ensure the French nuclear deterrent in response to the conflict in Ukraine for the first time since the Euromissile crisis (1977-1987).

France planned to sell Australia their version of this submarine until the new Aukus alliance was announced in November 2021 between Canberra, London, and Washington. However, nuclear propulsion of these 12 submarines was prohibited by the terms of the deal with Australia.

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