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There are five countries which are building nuclear powered submarines: the United States, Russia, Great Britain, China and France. They are building Ballistic Missile and Attack classes.

The French Barracuda class nuclear attack submarines are to be built for the French Navy to replace the existing force of the four SSN Rubis class submarines which entered service from 1983 to 1988 and two SSN Amethyst class submarines which were commissioned in 1992 and 1993.

Chronologically, the BARRACUDA submarine is a contemporary of the American VIRGINIA, British ASTUTE and Russian ACULA (Project 971) and SEVERODVINSK (Project 885) classes and Project 093 Chinese nuclear attack submarines. But the general assessment is in comparison with other countries’ similar submarines BARRACUDA is a less ambitious and relatively smaller nuclear sub.

BARRACUDA missions include anti-surface ships and fast deep submarine warfare, land attack using stealthy long range cruise missiles, surveillance and intelligence gathering, crisis management and special operations.

The feasibility study for the Barracuda class submarine was successfully completed in 2002 and the program entered the design definition phase in late of 2002. The construction of the first of that class submarine started in 2006. The first of the class sub might be launched in 2011 , with sea trials in 2012 and entry into service in 2013. The six Barracuda class attack submarines will enter service at two-yearly intervals from 2013 to 2023.

BARRACUDA will have a surface displacement of about 4,100 tons (approximately half that of the USA Virginia class), but which is an increase of 70% compared to the Amethyst class submarines. The maximum underwater speed is a classified figure but it would be certainly more than 25 knots (probably, more than 30 knots) and diving depth more than 350m (probably, about 600 m).

The high level of automation integrated into the submarine’s operational and mission systems will allow the submarine a complement of 60 (in each of the two crews) compared to 78 in the Rubis and Amethyst classes. The operational cost will be reduced by 30% compared to that of the Rub is class.

BARRACUDA incorporates a range of diving, safety and damage control technologies and the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS). The ship’s design incorporates a range of stealth technologies to minimize the acoustic, magnetic, radar and visual signatures. BARRACUDA will provide a high silent running underwater speed and maneuverability for the anti-submarine role.

The submarine will have four 533mm torpedo tubes and accommodate 18 torpedoes and missiles in a mixed load. She will carry new heavyweight Black Shark torpedoes: which is a new dual-purpose wire-guided torpedo with Astra active/passive acoustic head and a multi-target guidance and control unit incorporating a counter-countermeasures system.

BARRACUDA ‘s anti-surface missile is an upgraded version of the SM39 Exocet missile (Naval Scalp) which will be launched from a standard torpedo tube. It’s armed with a 165 kg warhead, uses inertial cruise guidance and active radar homing in the terminal phase of flight. The missile flies at a high subsonic speed, Mach 0.9 to a target range.

This new naval land attack cruise missile, Naval Scalp, will enter service in 2012. The missile is derived from the Scalp EG and Storm Shadow air-launched missiles. It will have long range precision attack capability against targets at ranges up to 1,000 km.

The Scalp naval version has a longer body than the air-launched version and its wings are extended from the missile body after launch. The missile is being developed for both submarine torpedotube ejection and surface ship vertical launch.

BARRACUDA will be configured to enable a future back-fitting of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs).

Thales Underwater Systems has been selected as prime contractor for the sub’s sonar suite. The submarine will be fitted with bow sonar, wide-aperture flank sonar and towed sonar arrays.

BARRACUDA ‘s nuclear propulsion system will be a new hybrid design providing electric propulsion for economical cruise speeds and turbo-mechanical propulsion for higher speeds. The power plant will be based on technologies developed for the 150 MW K 15 pressurized water nuclear reactor with power of 41 .500 shp installed in the Triomphant class ballistic missiles nuclear submarines and the CHARLES DE GAULLE aircraft carrier.

To understand the French philosophy of nuclear attack submarines design it is reasonable to return to naval architectural characteristics of the first nuclear attack subs of that country: the Rubis class. They are the most compact nuclear attack submarines to date.

They have a computer central system for targets detection, processing of information and firing of weapons. The submarines have two crews, Blue and Red, who man the ships every three months in turn.

There are six submarines of that class: S601

Displacement 2400 t (surfaced), 2600 t (submerged)
Length – 73.6 m, Beam – 7.6m, Draft – 6.4m
Propulsion and power: Pressurized water K48 nuclear reactor (48MW), one propeller, one diesel-alternator as an auxiliary engine, 5MW
Speed – over 25 knots
Complement – 10 Officers, 52 Warrant Officers, 8 Petty Officers
Armament: 4 x 533mm torpedo tubes, 14 weapons:
F17 mod 2 torpedoes and anti-surface: Exocet SM 39 missiles, mines Sensors: DMUX 20 multifunctional (tugged antenna, microphone system and radar)

The French Government tried to reduce the price of a Barracuda class submarine from approximately I 000 million dollars to about 800 million dollars, but such a goal is difficult for accomplishment. But the fact that the displacement of the French new attack nuclear submarine is approximately half that of its American, British and Russian counterparts says for itself. But her weapons payload is also approximately half.

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