France to start construction of the next-gen SSBN in few months

The Chief of Staff of the French Navy, Pierre Vandier, was heard by the French Parliament at the end of July. He spoke about the war in Ukraine, the Chinese ambitions, the use of UAVs, the confrontation with Turkey, and the future of the French Navy.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 French Navy Chief of Staff and the Indian ambassador in Paris. (Picture source: Indian MFA)

Pierre Vandier returned to the deterrence theory. Indeed, the French Navy has a permanent nuclear attack submarine at sea, replaced every sixty days by another one.

War in Ukraine

He spoke of the Russian presence in the Mediterranean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. The Russian naval potential, apart from the cruiser Moskva, has not been affected. The submarine force has hardly been used since the beginning of the conflict. Indeed, the conflict in Ukraine is primarily land-based.

"In Ukraine, the naval part of the conflict was little mentioned, although it covered more or less all the fields of employment of a modern navy. On the fifth day of the war, Putin threatened dire consequences for anyone who interfered with his special operation and, to make his point, sent six ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), two in the Pacific and four from Murmansk, which made people realize the value of having an independent nuclear force."

"Then Russia set up a blockade in the Black Sea, sinking two Ukrainian ships and no less than eleven merchant ships. It used naval platforms to fire cruise missiles. Faced with difficulties in ammunition stocks, it makes extensive use of ship and submarine stocks, as evidenced by the current strikes on Odessa."

"Another example of anti-ship warfare was the missile strikes that caused the loss of the Moskva, the showcase of the Russian Navy. It sank in a few hours, proof of the lethality and violence of naval combat. In this regard, we can recall that the Royal Navy lost 14 ships in 72 days of conflict during the Falklands War in 1982. We prepared for this type of conflict during Exercise Polaris 21 and we continue to prepare for it."

According to him, the Chinese are currently building a fleet of five icebreakers to give themselves the opportunity to shift their forces from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with the friendship of the Russians. Soon it will no longer be necessary to go to the China Sea to find Chinese military forces.

He recalled that by 2030, the tonnage of the Chinese navy will be 2.5 times that of the U.S. navy, which, despite its efforts, will remain stable or even continue to shrink, while the Chinese fleet grows geometrically. In the Mediterranean, too, some navies are showing triple-digit growth in tonnage from 2008 to 2030. "Against the Chinese navy, we will win if we fight together, in a coalition."

Nevertheless, he cautioned that due to various economic regulations, the French Navy has never been as small as it is today and will continue to shrink over the next two years.

News of the French Navy

He returned to the commissioning of the Suffren submarine and the sixth multi-mission frigate (FREMM), the Normandie. In November 2021, the Offshore Patrol Vessel Auguste Benebig was launched and will arrive in New Caledonia in early 2023. Finally, the Jacques Chevallier, the first Logistic Support Ship (BRF in French), was launched on 29 April 2022 and will begin trials in November.

He stated that the future new-generation aircraft carrier will succeed the Charles de Gaulle in 2037 and that work on the SNLE 3G will begin in the fall.

Pierre Vandier also said that the first anti-drug operation was conducted in the Atlantic Ocean, with the Mistral and a Schiebel drone, which remained in flight for four hours, alternating with the helicopter. The French Navy will have six Schiebel UAVs, which are currently being certified. As for large underwater drones, Naval Group has launched studies to develop a prototype.

He also spoke of an incident with the Turks when the French Navy escorted a specialized vessel, which had obtained an agreement to explore oil drilling in southwest Cyprus. The Turks considered that these sectors fall under their sovereignty, the French frigate was surrounded by five Turkish frigates, which in the end dissuaded the operator from pursuing its activities in this sector.