Home Europe Journalists given rare access to France’s Rubis-class nuclear-powered submarine

Journalists given rare access to France’s Rubis-class nuclear-powered submarine

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Built in the 1980s, the submarine is being phased out from the French navy in favour of newer models.


Journalists were granted rare access to one of France’s Rubis-class nuclear-powered submarines as it was being readied for sea in the naval dockyards in Toulon.

The French navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered subs are generally shrouded in secrecy.

This submarine is one of three Rubis-class attack submarines in the French navy and carries a crew of 70.

It’s powered by a nuclear reactor so can patrol the ocean for months at a time without refuelling.

The Rubis can carry anti-submarine and anti-ship torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. One of its roles is to protect the fleet of larger nuclear-armed submarines, of which France has four.

“We have the conventional mission of submarines, meaning anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence gathering, special forces. But we don’t have nuclear weapons on board this type of submarine,” explained Manuel Bienvu, the submarine’s commander.

This vessel, which the military would not allow to be identified by name, will be escorting the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in an operation in the Mediterranean with NATO.

For the first time, the French carrier strike group will be under direct NATO command during the operation.

“There are two NATO operations that the carrier strike group is participating in, which we will be part of: Neptune Strike and Noble Shield,” said the submarine commander, Manuel Bienvu.

“They are permanent NATO missions in the Mediterranean and are reassurances by NATO.”

But the Rubis-class’s days are numbered. The French navy is replacing them with newer, more modern and more heavily armed nuclear-powered submarines.

Three Rubis-class subs – half the fleet – have already been retired.

The first of the new Suffren class of attack submarines has been in service since June 2022, and a further four will join the fleet by 2030.

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