Barracuda Nuclear Powered Attack Submarines

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The French defense procurement agency DGA awarded DCN group and partner Areva-TA a contract for the production of six new-generation nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) of the Barracuda class, which will replace the Rubis-class submarines currently in service. The initial €1 Billion phase of the contract covers the design and development of the new class. Six subsequent options will fund each of the submarine's production and maintenance over 20 years for a total of additional €7 Billion. The first Barracuda SSN is scheduled for delivery in 2016.

While smaller than other SSNs currently under development in the west, specifically the U.S.’ Virginia class and the U. K.’s Astute class, the Barracuda will utilize advanced technologies developed for the French Le Triomphant-class SSBNs and the Scorpene conventionally powered submarine.

The 325 foot (99 meter) long Barracuda will have a displacement of 4,765 tons when submerged. Driven by hybrid steam-electric powerplant, based on a derivative of the K15 plant, which already powers the SSBN and Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, it will be able to maintain a submerged speed of up to 25 knots.

Compared with the crew of 70 in the current Rubis class, Barracuda will accommodate a crew of 60 plus 15 passengers (for example, special forces personnel). Reduction in the crew is made possible by the introduction of highly automated platform management system, and sophisticated data distribution network spanning over most operational functions. Unlike conventional designs, the aft section housing the nuclear powerplant and propulsion systems will not be armed, further improving safety and survivability of the platform. The design also features an X-shaped combination of diving planes/control surfaces for improved underwater control.

The submarines will carry In 20 tube-launched weapons comprised of a mix of various missiles and torpedoes. The primary land-attack weapon will utilize the MDCN cruise missiles (SCALP Naval). Anti-surface and anti-submarine weapons will comprise future heavyweight torpedoes and the SM39 anti-ship missiles (Submarine-launched Exocet). In addition to its anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities, the Barracuda will accommodate intelligence gathering equipment and capabilities of deployment of special forces.

Barracuda is designed with advanced 'stealth' capabilities, with reduced acoustic and electromagnetic signatures. Its high ‘acoustic speed’ (i.e. maximum speed at which self-radiated noise is compatible with reliable detection of other submarines) offers high agility and discretion, while a discreet communications suite will make it low-signature, crisis control operations.

The interval between refueling and complex overhauls (RCOHs) has been extended from seven to ten years, with just one intermediate maintenance period per year. The hybrid steam-electric propulsion technology proposed by DCN for the Barracuda program will use a reactor core offering a lifetime of ten years. This system uses a single steam drum with increased propulsion mode redundancy to ensure economical core depletion, a high tactical speed and improved safety. DCN is incorporating improved maintainability into the Barracuda which will be designed for a nominal availability of 240 days/year. This class will be the first French submarine to use non-penetrating masts and periscopes, thereby giving the naval architects greater freedom in positioning the sail relative to the hull.

Within the DCN/Areva TA program consortium, DCN will act as the submarine prime contractor, including responsibilities as overall design, platform and propulsion system prime contractor, systems integrator, nuclear safety studies coordinator and through-life support prime contractor while Areva TA will act as prime contractor for the nuclear powerplant. The total construction time for each submarine will be 120 months (10 years).


 


 

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