PARIS --- After 35 years of service, the Saphir nuclear attack submarine (Sous-marin Nucléaire d’Attaque – SNA – in French) is the first of six Rubis-class SNAs that will be retired from active service beginning in the end of July 2019.
The 2019-2025 Military Program Law ensures the renewal of the Rubis-class nuclear attack submarines by Suffren-class boats, the first of which will be officially launched in Cherbourg on July 12, 2019.
SNA are true instruments of sovereign power, enduring and discreet. Their missions are varied: support for nuclear deterrence, protection of the carrier air group, intelligence gathering, submarine warfare.
Sapphire is the second of six French Rubis-class boats. Laid down in Cherbourg on September 1, 1979, she was christened Saphir (Sapphire) two years later, and Commander Roy took command of the first crew on June 26, 1982.
Since July 6, 1984, when it was commissioned into active service, Saphir has traveled over 1,200,000 nautical miles, spent more than 120,000 hours (more than 13 years) submerged, and made a hundred port calls.
Faithful to the memory of her glorious homonyms of the two world wars, Saphir has taken part in many missions, from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean and from the Far North to the South American coasts. Among its more emblematic missions were Operations Balbuzard in 1993, Kotor in 1999, and Harmattan in 2011.
Commanded today by Commander Frenais de Coutard, the Saphir is currently sailing to Cherbourg, where she will be dismantled. Disarmament operations will be carried out under the control of the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA).
The first of the new-generation attack submarines, the Suffren, will be delivered to the French Navy in 2020. Her official launch on July 12 marks the end of the construction period and is the last step before the beginning of the test phase.
A complex program whose project management is ensured by the DGA and the CEA (the French atomic energy commission), with Naval Group and Areva-TA as prime contractors, it demonstrates France’s industrial know-how.
With the Suffren-type boats, France will have more enduring, more discreet and more modern submarines, among the most powerful in the world. In addition to the traditional missions assigned to the SNAs, they will also be able to perform strikes against ground targets, and will be optimized for supporting special forces.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said "In a few days, a historic torch-passing will take place, but beyond the symbolism, it is all the French excellence which is demonstrated by these two events: first an SNA, which for decades will never fail in its mission, followed by the arrival of a technological gem that will allow France to keep its status and its rank of military power. I congratulate all submariners of Saphir, past and present, for their professionalism commands our admiration."
The first crew, whose core has been formed in parallel to the construction phase, will be formally created on July 12, to prepare for sea trials in preparation for future operations.
In service until the 2060s, Suffren-type SNAs will be one of this century’s major programs for our defense.