New Milestone for France’s Fourth New-Generation Nuclear-Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine: DCNS Rolls Out SSBN Le Terrible
(Source: DCNS; issued March 21, 2008)
Le Terrible, France’s fourth and final new-generation nuclear-powered missile submarine, seen at Cherbourg during its roll-out ceremony. (DCNS photo)
CHERBOURG, France --- Today, DCNS rolled out SSBN Le Terrible, the fourth and last Le Triomphant-class new-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at a ceremony attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Over 3,000 people witnessed the roll-out at DCNS’s Cherbourg shipyard, the home of excellence in French submarine construction for over 100 years.

SSBN Le Terrible is the fourth and last boat of the Le Triomphant class which is progressively replacing the earlier Le Redoutable class. Like its predecessors, the Le Terrible will be assigned to the French Navy’s Strategic Ocean Force (FOST).

SSBN Le Terrible, the construction of which began in 2000, is the first to be equipped with the SAD M51 weapon deterrent system. The other three Le Triomphant-class boats will be upgraded to carry M51 missiles as they come up for refit.

The French defence procurement agency (DGA) appointed DCNS as prime contractor for the SNLE-NG or new-generation SSBN programme back in 1986. The development and construction of these cutting-edge naval assets has mobilised the resources not only of DCNS, the DGA and the French Navy but also those of the French atomic energy commission (CEA) and a host of industrial firms, laboratories and university departments.

“Thousands of French companies, big and small, worked under DCNS leadership to build this submarine. Together they marshalled exceptional expertise in advanced technologies ranging from special steels, nuclear power and underwater acoustics to ballistic missiles and navigation and communication systems, to name but a few. For sophistication and complexity, little compares with a nuclear-powered submarine. SSBN Le Terrible is the fruit of a collective effort not only of those who directly contributed their best skills, but also those who preceded us in building the Le Redoutable class. Maintaining the expertise and skills accumulated over the years is one of our highest priorities,” said Jean-Marie Poimbœuf, Chairman and CEO of DCNS.

Following a design phase calling for 100,000 technical drawings, the construction involved laying some 300 kilometres of electrical cable and almost 100 kilometres of piping for steam, air, water and oil. The boat’s 75,000 items of equipment, representing several million individual components, where integrated along with support for a village of 111 souls, a nuclear powerplant, a strategic missile base and a self-defence system similar to that of an attack submarine. Everything, moreover, is designed for continuous availability during patrols lasting several weeks at a time.

The programme also required 14 million person-hours’ work, without counting hundreds of meetings with the DGA and the Navy to specify, refine, tailor, check and accept new systems and interfaces.

SSBN Le Terrible will be fully fitted out and ready to serve with the Strategic Ocean Force in 2010.

Technical data for SSBN Le Terrible
-- Length overall: 138 metres
-- Diameter: 12.5 metres
-- Displacement, surfaced: 12,640 tonnes
-- Displacement, submerged: 14,300 tonnes
-- Speed, submerged: >25 knots
-- Complement: 111
-- Strategic weapons: 16 type M51 SLBMs
-- Tactical weapons for self-defence: torpedoes and type SM39 missiles


The DCNS group is one of Europe’s leading players on the world market for naval defence systems. To meet customer demands for more comprehensive and integrated systems, DCNS acts as prime contractor for naval shipbuilding, integration and support by combining its own development, marketing and production capabilities with those of selected partners. To manage the complexity of such projects, DCNS draws on in-house expertise in naval architecture, systems engineering, ship assembly and integration and equipment design and production as well as through-life support. The DCNS group employs some 13,000 people and generates annual revenues of around EUR 2.8 billion.


Click here for DCNS’ fact sheet on Le Terrible and on France’s SSBN program.

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