A first glimpse of the future French nuclear submarine SNLE 3G

Avatar photo

Characteristics of the 3G SSBN

The future of French deterrence is taking shape in the guise of the SNLE 3G program (third-generation ballistic missile nuclear submarine). The Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) shared, on July 4, an image of a model representing the four SSBN 3Gs of the Strategic Oceanic Force (FOST). These hydrodynamic tests aim to assess the maneuvering performance of future submarines at sea.

Compared to a 2G SSBN of the “Le Triomphant” class, the 3G SSBN has a stockier kiosk, probably equipped with a non-penetrating modular mast system but without dive bars, suggesting a displacement of these towards the front of the ship.
The SSBN 3G will displace nearly 15,000 tons underwater, with an estimated length of 150 meters, and will be capable of carrying up to 16 M51 sea-to-surface ballistic missiles. Its proportions will be roughly similar to those of the current SSBNs, which means that there will be no need to undertake major infrastructure work at the Île-Longue naval base.

Improvements in maneuverability and acoustic discretion

Even if the image shared by the DGA is fleeting, it is possible to guess that the rudder of the SSBN 3G will be made up of four bars in the shape of a cross of Saint Andrew, which will guarantee better maneuverability.

The SSBN 3G will also benefit from improved acoustic discretion, thanks to a masking coating applied to its entire hull to reduce the noise radiated into the water, thus defeating passive sonars. In addition, it will feature innovative magnetic discretion in the face of the airborne threat, a new on-board atmosphere processing plant and improved performance sensors.

A future nuclear submarine with innovative technology

The propulsion of the SSBN 3G will be based on a nuclear boiler room which, according to TechnicAtome, will benefit from a certain number of significant innovations. These will be intended to be embarked on the K22 type boiler rooms intended for the new generation aircraft carrier. “The first 3G SSBN will replace Le Triomphant by 2035,” said Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of Staff of the French Navy. Furthermore, he pointed out that “the names of the four future SSBNs have not yet been defined. They will soon be proposed to the Minister and the Head of State. Their entry into active service will be staggered until 2050”.

Contracts for the design and construction of the 3G SSBN

Naval Group has signed several study and supply contracts as part of the industrialization plan to secure the general design phase of the submarine. These contracts involve suppliers such as Framatome, Aubert and Duval, CNIM or Industeel.

“The SNLE 3G program will mobilize more than 200 companies, 400 skills and 3,000 people, spread across the entire territory. These contracts also illustrate long-standing partnerships with companies without whom this project would not be possible,” said Anne Bianchi, director of the SSBN 3G program at Naval Group.

The construction of the first SSBN will begin in 2023 for delivery in 2035. During this phase, the production of several crucial elements was entrusted to partner companies: the study of the design of the missile launch tubes (CNIM), the supply of about fifty drafts of nuclear boiler rooms (Naval Group of Nantes-Indret, Aubert and Duval, Framatome) and the production of six metallurgical connecting parts in high elastic limit steel (Industeel).

The selection of these partners with recognized expertise will contribute to increasing the innovative technology of the 3G SSBN, thus ensuring the success of this large-scale project. The 3G SSBN will therefore be the result of close collaboration between Naval Group, the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the DGA, and numerous partner companies. Together, they are shaping the future of French deterrence for decades to come.

John Walker Avatar