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First French Cruise Missile Launch From SSN Suffren

Library image © MBDA / DGA EM
Exocet SM39 and MdCN cruise missiles have been successfully launched from the new French nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) Suffren.


French MoD Press Release, 22 October 2020: Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly hails the success of the first naval cruise missile launch by the nuclear-powered attack submarine Suffren.

  • On October 20, 2020, the Suffren, the first-in-series of the six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) in the Barracuda programme, successfully completed the test firing of an MdCN (Missile de Croisière Naval) naval cruise missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre at Biscarrosse.
  • Florence Parly salutes this achievement: “For the first time, a French submarine has fired a cruise missile. This success gives our Navy a new strategic capability and places it among the world’s best. This new weapon is a real breakthrough, the result of years of effort and investment, enabled by the 2019-2025 military programming law. I want to congratulate everyone – in the Navy, the DGA, and industry – who made this firing possible. Until now, France’s submarine force could strike submarines and surface ships. Henceforth, it can destroy heavy land infrastructure at long range.”
  • The firing completes the qualification phase of the integration of all Suffren’s weapon systems, carried out as part of its sea trials, conducted by the DGA (France’s Defence Procurement Agency) since last April.
  • This success marks a key stage in the Suffren‘s trials with a view to its final qualification by the DGA. The Suffren will be delivered to the French Navy by the end of 2020, before entering active service in 2021.

This test firing of the MdCN naval cruise missile – following careful preparations by teams from the DGA, the French Navy and the manufacturers MBDA and NAVAL GROUP – is the last milestone in a series of tests designed to verify the correct functioning of the Suffren‘s armaments and of its combat system in general.

With a range of several hundred kilometres, the MdCN is tailored for missions against infrastructures of high strategic value. After the Multi-Mission Frigates (FREMM), the Suffren-class SSNs are the first French vessels to be equipped with this conventional deep strike capability. The ability to deploy the MdCN from submarines maintains the constant and undetected threat of a strike from the sea against enemy targets located far inland, and very significantly increases the penetration capacity of French weapons in military theatres of operation.

During its trials in the Mediterranean, the Suffren also successfully completed a test firing of an Exocet SM39 underwater-launched anti-ship missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre on Île du Levant, as well as several test firings of the F21 heavy torpedo, a next-generation weapon that will ultimately be carried on all French Navy submarines.

The validation of the Suffren‘s entire combat system paves the way for the end of sea trials and its overall qualification, which will enable it to be delivered to the French Navy for final verification of its military characteristics and commissioning for active service.


Comment from MBDA: On the occasion of the successful Exocet SM39 and MdCN firings from the new French submarine Suffren, Eric Beranger, CEO of MBDA, said: “I would like to thank Minister Florence Parly for her congratulations and I join her in sending them to all MBDA employees and those who have contributed to this great success, including of course the French Navy, the DGA, Naval Group, and our other industrial partners.”

The success of these Exocet SM39 and MdCN firings once again proves MBDA’s mastery of underwater missile launches. This capability remains rare in the world and contributes to the independence of France without reliance on foreign parties for security.

Eric Beranger added: “We are proud of the confidence our armed forces place in us to develop such exclusive military capabilities, and we owe our nation the repayment of this trust.”

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