The ballistic nuclear submarine (SSBN) Le Terrible has been transferred from the Île Longue to dock 8 of the Brest naval base to continue its Full Cycle Docking (FCD), also known as major refit. This will be the first FCD for Le Terrible and will involve 14 months of industrial activities to modernise the ship and restore its operational potential for the coming 10 years.
A press statement from Naval Group said, “The submarine’s FCD work began on the operational base of l’Ile Longue with two major preparatory operations: the removal of weapons and the fuel elements from the nuclear reactor. The SSBN will now undergo major maintenance and modernisation works in dock 8 on the Brest naval base in order to restore its operational potential for the coming 10 years.”
The statement added that as the project’s prime contractor, Naval Group had been officially responsible since the beginning of November 2020. The SSF (Fleet Support Service) has ownership and is responsible for maintaining the French navy’s fleet in operational condition.
The main works to be carried out are maintenance of the hull and its structures, energy and propulsion, diving safety, the platform control and operation systems, utilities associated with life on board, detection and fight against threats and the deterrent weapon system (SAD).
In addition, 300 modifications will be made to various installations in order to improve the SSBN’s control and performances.
These works will last for around 14 months and the submarine will then return to its operational base to reload the reactor core, start up the installations and carry out sea trials before returning to its operational cycle.
2.5 million hours of work
The FCD of SSBN Le Terrible represents a major project with high economic impact and requires a sharp ramp-up in manpower. Over 900 people will be working at the dock during peak periods, in three 8-hour shifts, six days a week.
In addition to the Naval Group teams from the sites of Brest, Ruelle, Indret and Ollioules (near to Toulon), the prime contractor also oversees the activities of around 45 companies in the Brest region and the Grand-Ouest area of France in order to collectively provide the 2.5 million hours of work that are needed for this operation.
Maintain and modernise one of the most complex products in the world
Over and above the full maintenance work that is carried out every 10 years, these ballistic nuclear submarines are among the most complex products in the world, with their size (138 metres and 12,500 tons), their on-board technologies, at the cutting edge of scientific innovations, and the constraints relating to their use during operations.
As the sole designer and constructor of the French ballistic nuclear submarines, Naval Group has continuously ensured the maintenance and modernisation of submarines based at l’Ile Longue on the Crozon peninsula for over 45 years.
The challenge for Naval Group is to ensure, through the quality of maintenance carried out on these submarines, that the French navy can guarantee the “permanence at sea” of French SSBNs, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.