SSBN3G: Should we go back to a 6-submarine deterrent?

On February 19, the Minister of the French Armies, Florence Parly, announced the launch of the design program for the next new generation Gear Launcher Nuclear Submarines, often referred to by the acronym SSBN 3G, being the third generation of this type of submersible built by France. The 4 new ships will be armed with 16 intercontinental M51 ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 10.000 kilometers and each carrying up to ten nuclear warheads with independent trajectory of 100 kilotons, 6 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

This announcement marks Paris's desire to preserve its strategic independence as well as its capacity to ensure alone the protection of its territorial integrity and its nationals, even in the face of world super powers. The announcement made by the Minister of the Armed Forces was expected, since the President of the Republic announced the next implementation of the program. But it offers some additional information, such as the schedule with a design phase of 5 years and entry into service of the first vessel in 2035, budget with a first tranche released of € 5,1 billion, and format, since the Minister announced that 4 SSBN 3G will be built.

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We have no doubts about the need for this program, nor about the future performance of the new submarines which will benefit from the experience acquired by Naval Group, the DGA and Technic Atom in the design and implementation of submarines at nuclear propulsion, whether they are Le Redoutable class SSBNs replaced by the Triomphant class, and Ruby class ANSs being replaced by the SSN of the Suffren class. On the other hand, the format chosen by the French authorities, 4 vessels, is otherwise questionable. Because if it does indeed take up the number of SSBN of the Triomphant class currently in service, this format was the consequence of a very particular security and geostrategic situation during the 2000s, a situation which no longer has much in common with the current situation, and even less with that which will exist in 2035 and beyond.

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