French Navy upgrade and discussion


Well-Known member
Nov 30, 2017
In these uncertain times of pandemic, many of us are dreaming of travel. If we are forced to stay at home to save lives, this is not the case for GIRAFE, the Embarkable Cold Atom Interferometric Research Gravimeter, a sensor developed by ONERA researchers that measures gravity with extreme precision. This instrument is used in a series of measurement campaigns at sea and in the air, and is evidence of the growth of quantum technologies, which are supported by the quantum plan announced in January by the French government. Among the objectives of this 1.8 billion euro investment over five years are quantum sensors, alongside quantum computers and quantum communication.

The interest of these quantum sensors to measure gravity is that we can make a measurement not only very accurate, but also absolute and stable in time because their operation is based on the laws of quantum physics. The applications of absolute quantum gravimeters range from navigation in the absence of a GPS signal to fundamental physics, including subsoil prospecting and seabed mapping, which recently led to an order from the French Navy's Direction Générale de l'Armement for quantum gravimeters for the French Navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service.

What is gravity?
Gravity is the force responsible for the attraction of all massive bodies between them: the Sun and the planets, the Earth and the Moon, the apple falling from the tree... On our planet, a body subjected only to the force of gravity has a speed that increases by about 9.8 meters per second, every second.

However this value is not constant in space and time! It varies according to location: the Earth is not exactly spherical, for example, and this causes the acceleration of gravity g to vary from 9.83 meters per square second at the poles to 9.78 meters per square second at the equator. The precise distribution of mass - mountains, buildings, soil density - also affects the value of g.

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On the other hand, g varies in time, for example with the phenomenon of tides that influence the sixth decimal place of g, or also with the melting of ice and the variations of atmospheric pressure.

The quantum gravimeter GIRAFE 2 developed at ONERA is mounted on board an aircraft for in-flight measurements, in order to measure the local value of the gravity field with precision. Malo Cadoret, Author provided
In fact, the whole environment affects the local value of g at a different decimal level. For some subsurface sensing applications, it is sometimes even necessary to be able to measure variations as small as a billionth of g, i.e. 8 digits behind the decimal point.

How does a quantum gravimeter work?
At the heart of quantum physics is the wave-particle duality: all bodies (like atoms for example) can behave like waves under certain experimental conditions. It is this wave-like behavior of atoms that is exploited in the quantum gravimeter to realize atomic interferometers extremely sensitive to the value of g.

The general principle of an interferometer is simple: superimpose waves propagating in an environment to extract either information on these waves or on the environment. We are used to observe waves. For example, when we throw a pebble into a lake, we create a circular wave on the surface of the water. By throwing two pebbles into the water, two circular waves propagate and end up superimposed. These two waves give rise to a wave of greater amplitude if the hump of one wave falls on the hump of the other, or of smaller amplitude, or even zero amplitude, if the hump of one falls on the hollow of the other. This is the phenomenon of interference. Matter is described as a wave phenomenon, so it is possible to make atoms interfere!
Two pebbles fall into the water at the same time. The waves they generate interfere. The interference pattern contains hollows and bumps, represented in blue and yellow. Source: Wikipedia
In an atomic interferometer, atomic waves are controlled by making them interact with laser light. This is a particular light whose properties allow to manipulate in a very fine way the atoms during very brief instants. An atomic wave is thus separated into two waves that take two different paths, and that are recombined at a point to make them interfere. Thus, just as the sum of a bump and a trough of the circular wave on the surface of water can give rise to the absence of deformation, a superposition of two waves of matter at the output of an interferometer can also give an "absence of matter"! The interference signal obtained is very sensitive to minute changes in the environment. As the atoms are subjected to the force of gravity along both paths, it is possible to relate the interference obtained to an accurate measurement of gravity.

A cloud of atoms in free fall near absolute zero

Photo of the cloud of atoms near absolute zero in its light trap. Malo Cadoret, Author provided
In the GIRAFE quantum gravimeter, the source of matter waves is a millimeter-sized cloud of a few million rubidium atoms, trapped and cooled to a temperature of the order of a millionth of a degree above absolute zero using laser beams. The development of these laser cooling and trapping methods earned Steven Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. Having such a cloud of cold atoms allows not only to exhibit the wave nature of atoms, but also to control the direction of the matter waves.

The gas of atoms is then released from its light trap, and falls in free fall for a fraction of a second under the effect of gravity in a tube inside which reigns the vacuum. The interferometer is realized by making the cloud of atoms interact with three flashes of light at three different times during their fall, so as to separate, deflect, and then recombine the two matter waves. We then observe an interference signal reflecting a difference in path between the two waves due to gravity. We can then go back to the value of the latter.

Absolute gravity measurements on board: a world first for quantum sensors
Until recently, this technique of atomic interferometry was limited to laboratory instruments, which were certainly very efficient (capable of measuring minute fluctuations in g, of one in a billion), but too bulky and fragile for field applications. The GIRAFE quantum gravimeter is the first prototype that has demonstrated that the gravity field can be measured absolutely and accurately in operational conditions, at sea on a ship, and in the air on an airplane.

The GIRAFE 2 quantum gravimeter developed at ONERA is mounted on board an aircraft for in-flight measurements. The gravimeter is mounted on a gyrostabilized platform (orange) in order to maintain the measurement axis on gravity. Malo Cadoret, Author provided
These measurements allowed the realization of new maps of gravity with quantum precision, at the level of the millionth of the value of g. These results were obtained despite difficult operational conditions. For example, during the marine campaign, the gravimeter was subjected to swell that could sometimes reach 5 to 6 meters.

ONERA's quantum gravimeter has also proved itself in the air, demonstrating for the first time airborne gravity measurements with an atomic sensor. It was during an airborne campaign in Iceland in 2017 that GIRAFE mapped gravity over the volcanic area of the Vatnajökull glacier. These mappings are of particular interest to geologists, for whom such measurements are difficult to make from the ground because of the terrain.

Gravity map in the Meriadzec area (North Atlantic). The red lines correspond to the trajectory of the BHO. 1mGal=0.000 001 g. Malo Cadoret, Author provided
In 2020, GIRAFE improved its performance during new sea and airborne campaigns by measuring gravity fluctuations lower than one per million. These results demonstrate that a first generation of onboard cold atom quantum gravimeter is ready to be industrialized for geodesy, geophysics or defense applications.

While many quantum technologies are still under development, the accuracy of quantum gravimeters demonstrates the potential of this field.

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Well-Known member
Jun 22, 2021
La Défense, France
Its probably a silly request. But where can one find hd photos of the Suffren submarine?
maybe not exactly what you’ve asked for, but here are some inside photos (Propulsion control station), plus a video of the Suffren’s Ops room (CIC):

World’s Newest Class Of Nuclear Attack Submarine: Rare Access Inside Suffren​

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Well-Known member
Jun 22, 2021
La Défense, France
(Air&Cosmos, march17)
War in Ukraine: France raises its nuclear alert level

The French Navy has deployed almost all of its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SNLE//SSBN). Each submarine can carry up to 16 M51 intercontinental missiles.

16 M51 intercontinental missiles per SSBN

It is unclear how long this has lasted, and how long it may last: the Strategic Oceanic Force (FOSt) has not only deployed the usual nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) on patrol, but has far exceeded its nominal contract. This is according to the FOSt's nuclear contract with the head of the armed forces and President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron. Each submarine can carry up to 16 M51 intercontinental missiles produced by ArianeGroup, of which Airbus is a shareholder. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Breton daily "Le Télégramme de Brest" assured that France had even put a second SNLE on patrol. This is possible thanks to the SNLE cycle: one submarine is undergoing major maintenance for several months, one returns from patrol, another is preparing to leave on a mission, and the fourth is in reserve.

Three SSBNs on patrol

By optimising this cycle, the Navy managed to have not two but three SSBNs on patrol simultaneously, a feat made necessary by the situation in Ukraine and the aggressiveness of Russia. This decision taken by the President of the Republic, no doubt on the advice of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Thierry Burkhard, is linked to the risk of a nuclear or conventional attack on Ile Longue [French FOSt HQ], which leaves very little warning. By taking out its "boomers", the Navy has protected them from such a problem. Once they are "disseminated" under the ocean, they are virtually undetectable, and thus contribute perfectly to deterrence.

Deterrent posture

One way to make them last is also, possibly, to continue in the exception, and to make a crew change (each SNLE, including the one undergoing a major refit, has two) outside of metropolitan territory. Many alternatives are possible, but would be unheard of. We have never heard of a relief outside Ile Longue, only of a patrol interrupted by a sick person. No formalization of this unprecedented situation in the current 4 SNLE format has been made by the French authorities. France's deterrence posture is known: at least one SNLE at sea, and two Rafale squadrons of the 4th fighter wing, within the 1/4 Gascogne and 2/4 La Fayette fighter squadrons. These Rafales carry the MBDA ASMP-A.

ASMP-A missiles with Rafale

The Nuclear Air Force (NAF) is also capable of deploying the ASMP-A with its Rafales, as Air&Cosmos recalled at the beginning of the crisis. Ear-marked pilots have this capability. On the other hand, because the Rafale Marine is necessarily single-seater and the base of departure is not on land, the governmental control (carried out by the nuclear weapons gendarmerie) and the implementation are different. The only limiting factor of the FOSt is in fact the number of batches of M51 missiles, and the number of missiles in working order, an exact number obviously classified. So far, the Navy has not given any definitive clue about its deployments at sea, but several clues, which it is not possible to detail here, have been planted. When asked at a meeting with AJD [Defence Journalists Assoc] journalists on 8 March, Admiral Vandier [chief of navy staff] remained cryptic, making it clear that there was no communication about nuclear deployments. This was in line with the United States and Great Britain, which had decided, along with France, not to detail their plans.

Guerre en Ukraine : la France relève son niveau d'alerte nucléaire


Well-Known member
Jun 22, 2021
La Défense, France
(Le Telegramme, march21)

Why did France send three nuclear submarines from Ile-Longue?

Three nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines at sea for a period of time. This had not happened in France since the end of the 1980s. A look back at this discreet but spectacular raising of the nuclear alert level from Ile-Longue (29).

In addition to the submarine dedicated to patrol and the one that provided the alert, the French Navy recently deployed a third nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SNLE) from Ile-Longue. For a short time, in order to bring back the first one, which had left beyond its usual mission time.

Sensitive land

The subject is not the subject of any official communication but it does give rise to a large number of questions and publications. France's posture on the subject is not to disclose anything about its nuclear deterrent, a fortiori in a sequence of maintained dialogue with Russia. The head of the army, Emmanuel Macron, remains one of the regular interlocutors of Vladimir Putin. There is no question of weakening this tenuous link.

Triple bites to start the third

In Brest, it took three shifts to get the third of the four nuclear submarines of the French deterrent force back into service. While the fourth remains unavailable due to long-term maintenance in a repair basin in the port of Brest, the third submarine was undergoing an intermediate level of maintenance. In the context of the war in Ukraine, its return to service was anticipated with Naval Group and Thalès teams heavily involved. Not so much to increase the number of submarines at sea but to replace the first one, which had to be upgraded. "It is to France's credit that it was able to put a third submarine into service in such a short time," commented an industry source.

"Two is always better than one," says a seasoned submariner. In the event of interception or technical problems with one of them, the second would continue the deterrence mission. We know how cumbersome it is to operate SSBNs and how complex the on-board systems and firings are, and they are not always successful. It is a question of reinforcing the credibility of the deterrent (to make the capacity of nuclear fire bear fruit), of doubling the life insurance.

Fast-track procedure

Some may have wondered about this acceleration of the process of returning a nuclear submarine to the sea. You don't launch an SSBN on patrol by turning the ignition key. A large number of checks are necessary to restart and validate all the onboard systems (nuclear boiler room, missile firing procedures, acoustic discretion, etc.). Pre-patrol training sorties are usually carried out. If the submarine has left, it is because all the procedures have been followed and respected," reassures a well-informed source. If the submarine has left, it means that all procedures have been followed and respected," reassures a well-informed source. "To suffer a breakdown or a technical problem would be completely unproductive in the context and posture of deterrence. The challenge is to have fully operational ships.

Not at war with Russia

The aeronautics and space news website Air et Cosmos develops the idea that French SSBNs would be deployed at sea to leave "a base at Ile-Longue exposed to nuclear or conventional fire, which leaves very little warning". "Fortunately, we have not reached this level of tension with Russia, with whom we are not at war," reassures those at the highest level.


Pourquoi la France a-t-elle fait appareiller trois sous-marins nucléaires au départ de l’Ile-Longue ?
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Senior member
Dec 4, 2017

French Navy releases video about the future aircraft carrier PA-Ng​

Naval News April 2022 Navy Forces Maritime Defense IndustryPOSTED ON WEDNESDAY, 13 APRIL 2022 16:55

According to a tweet published by the French Navy on April 13, 2022, the Navy has released the first video about the future French aircraft carrier (PA-NG), "the new generation aircraft carrier".
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001
Artistic rendering of the future French aircraft carrier (Picture source: French Navy)

The French Navy is actively planning for a future aircraft carrier and new flagship. It is known in French as Porte-avions de nouvelle génération (PA-Ng) for "new generation aircraft carrier".

Construction of the PA-Ng is expected to begin around 2025 and it will enter service in 2038; the year the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is due to be retired. The ship will be nuclear-powered and feature the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) catapult system.
In October 2018, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced the start of a second carrier program, as a replacement for Charles de Gaulle.

The aircraft carrier will have a displacement of 7500 tons, a length of 305 meters, and a beam of 40 meters (131 ft 3 in). She will have two elevators.
She will be equipped with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) which is a type of aircraft launching system developed by General Atomics for the United States Navy. The system launches carrier-based aircraft by means of a catapult employing a linear induction motor rather than the conventional steam piston.

The PA-Ng will carry aircraft and helicopters including E-2 Hawkeye early-warning fixed-wing, 30 Dassault Rafale fighter jets, or FCAS (French: Système de combat aérien du futur; SCAF), Airbus Helicopters H160M, and NHIndustries NH90 helicopters.


Well-Known member
Jun 22, 2021
La Défense, France
#ssn, Faslane, nato
(thedrive, apr.28)

U.S., French, U.K. Nuclear Submarines Rendezvous In Scotland​

The unusual multinational submarine gathering comes at a time of unprecedented tensions in Europe around Russia’s war in Ukraine.

(nothing very special, imo)


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Feedback on French Navy High Intensity Exercise POLARIS​

In a report published by the French Parliament's National Defense and Armed Forces Committee, members of parliament (MPs) review the French Navy (Marine Nationale)'s feedback on the high-intensity exercise 'POLARIS' conducted from November 18 to December 3, 2021.​

Martin Manaranche story, additional reporting and editing by Xavier Vavasseur
POLARIS was a major operational exercise meant to prepare forces for a high-intensity engagement. This joint, combined and inter-theatre exercise involved 6,000 French troops from the three services (French Army, Navy and Air Force), including 4,000 French Navy sailors, virtually half of the vessels in the fleet as well as some allied navies. More than twenty warships and ships and some forty aircrafts were engaged daily in this exercise which scenario was animated in real time,

The realistic scenario of POLARIS 21 aimed to test the multiple capabilities of an air-sea force – the blue force – made up of the French carrier strike group, with nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at its centerpiece, against a credible opposition force – the red force – gathered around the Mistral-class LHD Tonnerre. To be realistic, the Red forces were equipped with offensive weapons which France does not have but which are proliferating among its competitors, such as the Russian-made anti-ship missiles SS-N-26 Strobile (or P-800 Oniks, Mach 2.2 speed, and 300km range) and SS-N-27 Sizzler (Mach 3 speed, 300km range).

To spice up the scenario, the organizers of the exercise decided to ‘jam’ satellite communications as well as radio exchanges.


“In fact, the exercise organizers have decided to ‘jam’ satellite communications as well as radio exchanges, as the Russians and the Chinese regularly demonstrate, or by actions in the cyber domain, or by actions in the electromagnetic field.”

Rear-Admiral Emmanuel Slaars, POLARIS commanding officer.

After the first minutes of combat, it turns out that the result is severe, and this is what the report underlines. In fact, within fifteen minutes of combat, two frigates were sunk and two more were neutralized. 200 to 400 sailors were put out of action, killed or missing. But the result was even worse at the end of the exercise, with a total of eight ships sunk or out of combat.

The exercise highlighted the violence of the engagements and the rapidity of the actions that would probably characterize a high-intensity naval combat in the 21st century.

The report underlines the shortcomings of the French Navy in many areas and its need to increase in mass and capacity as quickly as possible to face high-intensity combat.

Air Defense FREMM Alsace
Air Defense FREMM Alsace during the POLARIS exercise. French Navy picture.

In 2030, the French Navy’s format will only include 15 frigates, even though the Navy is already deployed in four or even five theaters of engagement, as opposed to the one or two foreseen by the operational contracts. This format would likely be insufficient in the event of a high-intensity conflict.

The MPs believe that France should set itself the goal of having 18 “first rank” frigates as soon as possible. But they concede that this objective is only achievable after 2030, due to industrial capacities that are already at the limit of their production capacity.

The report proposes to “relieve” the frigates by assigning them to missions where combat ships are useful, and to relegate “routine” missions to “second-line” ships.

Participation in the European Patrol Corvette programme would be an opportunity to make this option a reality. It would be a matter of confirming this program launched by Italy, with Greece and Spain to acquire ships by 2027, provided that the ships produced are sufficiently “rugged”.

The number of six corvettes planned to replace the in-service Floréal-class “surveillance frigates” could be increased as needed.

Also, the French Navy is facing a capability gap with its submarine force due to the Rubis-class “Perle” fire, and the report notes that a force of six attack submarines (SSN) remains small. It suggests that an additional Barracuda-type unit would make sense.

Another shortcoming noted is the lack of capacity for aerial drone systems. The modernization plan does include several programs such as the SDAM (maritime airborne drone systems), which aims to acquire 15 VTOL systems, and the SMDM (mini-UAV program), which will provide the fleet with fixed-wing UAVs, but these will not be completely delivered before 2030. To expand its maritime patrol capability, options are being considered, one of which is the acquisition of MALE UAVs for coastal surveillance and the EEZ in general.

The Defence and Armed Forces Committee also regrets the possible delay in the MAWS program to renew the Atlantic 2 maritime patrol aircraft. France had signed a letter of intent with Germany to produce this new capability, but following the Bundestag’s decision to buy P-8As MPA from Boeing, they fear that this program will be compromised.

MAWS could be compromised by the German choice to abandon the P-3C Orion refurbishment in June 2020, which led it to seek an interim solution for which Germany ultimately chose to purchase five Boeing P-8A aircraft. This decision has upset the balance of the MAWS cooperation. France is analyzing possible follow-up actions, but the criticality of the ATL2 / MAWS project militates in favor of launching phase 2 of the study as soon as possible, either in cooperation or nationally.

Beyond the lack of ships and aircraft, the report shows that the POLARIS exercise highlighted “the inadequacy of protection at sea for French ships”, but also “the inadequacy of the Exocet missile compared with other more modern missiles” and that it is urgent to remedy this. Although the Franco-British programme of future anti-ship and cruise missiles – FC/ASW program – should fix this gap, it will not be completed until around 2030.

“The cooperation with the British has so far been hampered by divergent military-technical analyses and industrial interests. Simulations carried out by the Navy and the DGA in the field of anti-surface warfare show that stealth, so much vaunted by the British, cannot by itself make a real difference in naval combat. The stealthy anti-ship missile is indeed detectable as soon as it passes the horizon, even low over the water. High speed and maneuverability, on the other hand, are far more credible factors for operational superiority and lethality.”

“We need to reanalyze this subject in terms of preparing for the future, when it also seems that our manufacturers have mastered the necessary technologies.”

Rear-Admiral Emmanuel Slaars, POLARIS commanding officer.

FREMM Provence
FREMM Provence during high intensity combat exercise POLARIS 21. ©Rachel Bodier/Marine Nationale/Défense

Finally, the feedback from the POLARIS exercise once again showed general lack of ammunition for all kinds of weapons. The rapporteurs express the “urgent” need to reconstitute stocks and production lines of ammunition of all calibers, but especially of so-called “complex” missiles. However, the report insists on the point of not starting an “arms race” but rather meeting the navy’s training and operational needs.

“In the Navy, sufficient ammunition stocks would allow for proper training, verification of training in good conditions, to verify that the systems are functioning nominally.This is an important issue for crew confidence.”

Rear-Admiral Emmanuel Slaars, POLARIS commanding officer.

Contacted by Naval News for up-to-date comments (in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine), a French Navy spokesman explained in detail:
“The Polaris exercise set the course for the future. It was both an incubator of innovations and a reminder of the fundamentals.
First of all, it was an innovation incubator.
Future exercises will be fed with disruptive reflections, from wargames now regularly planned.
This exercise was in line with the Navy Chief of Staff’s vision set out in Mercator Acceleration 2021, which is in line with the Joint Chief of Staff strategic vision.
Polaris confirmed that each tactical and technical innovation must be confronted with new fields of conflict (information, cyber, space), new systems (UAVs), digital challenges (data capitalization) and capabilities.
Our naval platforms are designed for decades, but the environment and threats evolve very quickly; to stay in the race and keep the high ground on our adversaries, our units must undergo continuous and incremental evolutions (particularly the SSNs and frigates).
Behind the innovation, Polaris has shown that the old precepts of naval combat remain relevant, in a context of intense naval rearmament from the Indo-Pacific to the Mediterranean.
Naval combat causes high casualties. Each high-intensity conflict extended to the sea reminds us of this, yesterday in the Falklands, today in the Black Sea. It is and will remain rapid and destructive.
It also raises the complex issue of opening fire first.
In order to prepare for this, we must be realistic: like Polaris, our operational preparation must project powerful, mobile forces at sea, with great freedom of action, over a longer period than we have done up to now.
Finally, there can be no victory in naval combat without the moral strength of our crews and their commanders.”

Captain Eric Lavault, French Navy Chief of Information