"We have proactive approaches with the end-user and the procurement agencies to further enhance the performance of our in-service support"
Head of services for the international market,DCNSLaurent Espinasse
Laurent EspinasseWhat are the key elements to achieve in-service support of submarines?
In-service support of submarines is a very specific and sensitive task: a submarine needs to fulfil very strong operational requirements while working in harsh environments. Temperature variations and repeated dives mean a submarine’s structure will go through a succession of dilatations and contractions. A submarine has to deal with highly complex technologies. The safety of the crew, reliance of the systems and overall performance of the submarine through the years are clearly at stake; you must achieve the same quality in the manufacturing process and in the maintenance phases. For the customer, focal point is to reach a safe and cost-effective operational availability so that the missions are fulfilled through the life of the submarine (30 to 40 years).

Effective and cost-efficient submarine support is certainly a ‘hot topic’. Can you tell us about your experience with the French Navy?
For the French Navy, DCNS and the French authorities together designed ‘availability based contracts’. DCNS is contractually committed on guaranteeing the submarines to be operational for a defined number of days at sea. In order to respect the operational agenda of the navy, we consider not only a ship but the entire flotilla. Submarines’ maintenance schedule is prepared months ahead. These performance-based multi-year contracts allow planning ahead the need for parts, skills and resources. One can reduce costs by minimising peaks, by negotiating with partners a workload over the years.

One of the French Navy’s operational commitments is having ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) permanently at sea at any given time. This implies that the ships, together with their support systems, are extremely well maintained and reliable to guarantee at least two SSBN are always available and fully operational. Our teams have been supporting the French Navy for over 40 years, thus contributing to France’s deterrence policy. We also have performance-based contracts around the nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN), and various classes of surface ships.

Can you give us tangible examples of the capabilities needed?
The basic support system involves technical knowledge and understanding of the submarine. Operational availability of the platform requires planning, coordination and procurement expertise. Human skills and spare parts are certainly of high importance but so are the tools and infrastructures. Today, we are developing strategies to bring in-service support with performance based agreements for both the ships and the necessary infrastructures. In France, for instance, our in-service support includes the infrastructures to berth and maintain the submarines — nuclear facilities included — as well the skills to run, maintain and upgrade them. We provide the French Navy with comprehensive services so they can concentrate on their operational missions.
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