Home Europe France kicks off program to develop next generation of ballistic missile subs

France kicks off program to develop next generation of ballistic missile subs

French SNLE 3G SSBN design graphic
Photo: Naval Group

France is embarking on a project to develop the third generation of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that are scheduled to start entering service in 2035, the country’s defense minister announced on Friday.

Dubbed SNLE 3G, the program will deliver four SSBN submarines, also referred to as boomers, for the French Marine Nationale.

This is the second major program France is undertaking after it launched the PANG (Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation – next-generation aircraft carrier in English) program to develop a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The delivery timelines are also coinciding, with the carrier delivery set for 2038.

French shipbuilding major Naval Group is in charge of both programs. TechnicAtome will be responsible for delivering the submarines’ nuclear boiler.

After delivering the first sub in 2035, Naval Group is expected to deliver the other three every five years. The new boats will serve between the 2030s and the 2090s, replacing the Triomphant-class, that will start retiring sometime between the 2030s and 2040s.

With SNLE 3G, the French Navy will be continuing its 50-year-old tradition of operating nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The navy received its first operational SSBN with the commissioning of FS Le Redoutable in 1971.

It is worth noting that France is also in the process of replacing its Rubis-class attack submarines as part of the Barracuda program. Naval Group handed over FS Suffren, the lead boat in the class, to the French Navy in November 2020.

The new submarines’ hull, structure, and a portion of the internal modules will be built in Cherbourg, while the main components of the boiler room major module construction will take place at Nantes-Indret. According to the shipbuilder, several other sites will be involved in the delivery of the boats.

Apart from construction sites, very little is known about the SNLE 3G, and the shipbuilder is yet to reveal basic details such as the boats’ planned length or displacement. If first graphics shared by Naval group are any indication, the submarines will feature pump-jet propulsion and an X-shaped rudder.

“Naval Group is very proud to put its skills, talents and industrial resources at the service of France’s nuclear deterrence,” Pierre-Eric Pommellet, Naval Group CEO, commented. “The whole company will be mobilized with its partners to carry out this exceptional project. We are aware of our responsibility and we will do our utmost, as previous generations have done, to provide France with the tool of its sovereignty.”