The fire aboard the nuclear attack submarine Perle was extinguished on June 13, 2020, at 1:50 am, after more than 14 hours of operations that mobilized a hundred firefighters and over 150 people to support them.
Thanks to the intervention coordinated by Vice-Admiral Isnard, Commander of the Mediterranean Maritime District, in connection with the Prefecture of the Var, no one was injured.
The fight against the fire saw the commitment of the firefighters of the Toulon Naval Base, of the Departmental Fire and Rescue Service (SDIS) of Var, of the Battalion of the Marseille Fire Brigade, and crew-members of other submarines as well as the staff of the nuclear attack submarine squadron (SNA) and the School of Submarine Navigation and Nuclear Powered Vessels (ENSM-BPN).
The fire broke out in a drydock at Toulon naval base, where the SNA Perle has been on a technical maintenance shutdown since January 13, 2020.
There is no nuclear risk, as her nuclear fuel had been removed as part of the technical shutdown. No weapons (missiles, torpedoes, ammunition) or batteries were aboard the submarine when the fire broke out.
Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the commitment of the forces to fight the fire, and she will travel today to Toulon accompanied by Admiral Christophe Prazuck, Chief of the Naval Staff.
On June 12, 2020, at 10:35 am, a fire broke out in the forward hull of the nuclear attack submarine Perle, while the boat was in drydock in the Missiessy zone of the naval base of Toulon.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The boat was evacuated as soon as the fire broke out, according to the Armed Forces Ministry, and no-one was injured during the incident. About 40 employees of Naval Group, the company which built and maintains French warships and submarines, were aboard, according to French media reports.
The fire was located in the lower part of the submarine’s forward hull and spread to the operations room, torpedo compartment, weapons magazine and part of the crew accommodations. It was finally extinguished by filling the entire forward section with foam. Specialized robots developed for firefighting operations on ships were deployed.
The fire did not reach the boat’s nuclear reactor compartment, according to a spokesman for the Maritime Prefect Mediterranean quoted by Agence France Presse.
There has so far been no indication of its cause.
Initial media reports indicate that the submarine may have been irreparably damaged, as a fire lasting 14 hours in an enclosed space may have caused its internal structure to melt.
Perle is the sixth and final Rubis-class nuclear attack submarine, and entered service in 1993. The Rubis class is due to be replaced by the Barracuda-class, whose lead boat, Suffren, is currently undergoing sea trials in the English Channel.
Perle was undergoing a heavy maintenance period to extend her service life for another decade, until her replacement by the sixth and final Barracuda-class submarine in 2029, but initial reports from Toulon suggest she may well be beyond repair.
If confirmed, this would deal a heavy blow to France’s submarine capabilities, and indirectly affect her submarine deterrent, as the primary mission of French SNAs is to escort her nuclear missile submarines as they transit to and from their home base in Brest.)