PARIS --- France will undertake a complex industrial operation to repair the submarine FS Perle, French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly announced Thursday during a speech broadcast as part of the closing of the Euronaval online exhibition.
Perle, a Rubis-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, was undergoing a service life extension upgrade at the French Navy’s main base in Toulon when a fire inexplicably broke out in her forward section, which took 300 people over 14 hours to extinguish.
Since June, experts from Naval Group, the Fleet Support Service of the French Navy and the Directorate General for Armaments have worked to prepare a detailed analysis of the extent of the damage and feasibility of repairs, which concluded that Perle can be repaired.
Parly said the actual repairs will be carried out by 300 people and will take six months to complete.
The June 12 fire damaged the forward section of Perle, and the temperatures to which the steel was subjected have altered its physical qualities. Since it is this steel in the pressure hull that absorbs the very strong pressures generated at depth, the first repair step will cut out and remove the forward section.
The submarine’s rear section, housing the nuclear reactor and propulsion gear, is perfectly intact, Parly said. “So, we're going to weld the rear section of Perle to the front section of Saphir, a sister ship that we retired from active service a year ago. We will then reconnect the interior connections, cables and pipes,” after which the regenerated Perle will resume her major overhaul where it was interrupted on June 12.
Parly noted that, when it caught fire, Perle was mostly empty, as her nuclear fuel, weapons, electronic bays and many vital organs such as pumps, fans and other technical installations had been removed, and are consequently available. They will be reinstalled after repairs are completed.
Repairing Perle will be a highly complex operation, but because submarines are built by welding together pre-equipped sections already fitted out with all their equipment, cutting them open is a familiar operation for Naval Group and DGA’s technical staff, as it is something that happens every time a submarine undergoes heavy maintenance.
“We will be particularly demanding with respect to the sea trials of Perle, and her return to the fleet, because the goal is to recover the operational capability she brings by ensuring the safety of the submariners who will man her,” Parly said.
“Finally, I would like to have a few words for the sailors, in particular for the submariners whose courage and professionalism I want to salute. For there is the prowess of the ship, the showcase of technology and power that secures our sovereignty; but above all there are sailors operating in silence.”