PARIS – France’s Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, confirmed on Oct. 22 that the nuclear attack submarine Perle, which caught fire in June whilst under maintenance, will be repaired over the next six months.
The undamaged aft of the vessel will be cut away from the damaged fore and then welded to the front of the Saphir, the nuclear attack submarine that was withdrawn from active service a year ago.
The decision will allow the French Navy to maintain its full fleet of nuclear attack submarines for the next decade while aging Rubis-class subs are slowly replaced by the new Suffren class.
“This is a complex operation that few countries are able to consider doing, but we are undertaking it with confidence,” Parly said. “Because despite the circumstances, each step of this repair corresponds to proven know-how: These are technologies that Naval Group and the state services are familiar with and master,” she added.
There had been some doubts as to whether the submarine could be repaired given the extent of the damage the submarine suffered during the 14-hour blaze which broke out on June 12 at the naval base shipyard in Toulon.
Since then, experts from Naval Group, the French Navy, and the DGA French procurement agency had been analyzing the damage and reported that the submarine could be repaired.
Parly explained that it was the fore of the 26-yr old submarine that burnt and the high temperatures of the fire had altered the qualities of the steel. “And it is this steel that absorbs the extremely high-pressure of the marine depths.” So she said the first step of the repair program was to cut away and dismantle that part of the damaged sub.
But the aft of the vessel, the parts that house the nuclear power plant and propulsion, is intact. Once fused with the front of the Saphir, “We will then reconnect the internal connections, the cables and the pipes,” she explained. “The Perle will then continue with the major overhaul that was interrupted by the fire.”
When the blaze broke out the Perle was almost empty: The nuclear combustible, the weapons, the fuel, the electronic cabinets, pumps, ventilators and other equipment had all been removed.
The repair costs are estimated somewhere around €120 million, or $140 million, according French media reports. The defense ministry would pay €70 million, Le Monde reported, and €50 million would be covered by a Naval Group insurance payment.
Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.