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The CIC consists features 10 multifunction consoles, plus a central seat for the commanding officer and a large tactile table which can be used for cooperative mission planning, navigation, show footage from the optronic masts…
While all consoles are multifunction and the same (except two which feature joysticks to steer the various masts), the CIC aboard Suffren is organized in the following way:
- Two consoles to the right of the commanding officer (CO) are dedicated to sonars
- One console to the right of the CO is dedicated to the acoustic analyst (the so called “oreille d’or”, French for golden ear)
- The next console on the right is dedicated to the MOAS and terrain following. Fun fact: The CO explained that the French Navy is working on a technology that would allow to submarine crew to precisely identifying their location by analyzing the shape of the bottom of the sea. He showed us on the screen a 3D representation of the sea bottom. This would obviously only work in well documented area but it a big plus in GPS denied environment or if the submarine needs to remain dived for extended periods and can not re-calibrate its INS.
- The final console on the right hand side is dedicated to the optronic masts.
- To the left of the CO is the second console dedicated to the optronic masts.
- Two tactical consoles (including EW)
- One console for weapons engagement
- One console for the F21 torpedo (where the operator can steer the torpedo as long as the optical fiber is still attached to it)
In the CIC, around the chart table, the CO, the XO and acoustic analysts plan the continuation of the transit according to the tactical situation of the submarine. French Navy picture.
Virtually all the equipment in the CIC is of French origin. I did spot however a “Falcon II” radio by Harris. I enquired about it and the Commanding Officer explained that this radio is needed in specific situations involving NATO or US units because of specific encryption.
Commander Richebé explained that in combat operations, there can be up to 15 sailors in the CIC. Forward of the consoles but in the same “room” are two positions which combine damage control, platform management and “driving of the boat”. We were told that the Suffren is very easy to drive. It is done via two joysticks. One of the helmsman of the submarine is just 19 year old.
We then went into the officer’s mess. It was roomy, modern and very comfortable. We spotted some wifi routers in there and the CO confirmed: There is a private/closed wifi aboard which allows the crew to access key data from wherever aboard the boat. The wifi network also is a security feature allowing to located 24/7 the location of each crew member (via an RFID chip in the sailors uniform). We were then shown a berthing compartment: 6 berth per compartment. There too it “appeared” to be comfortable: Each bunk gets its own light, power outlet and USB port. The USB port gives the sailor access to an entertainment platform where they can watch movies on their free time. Naval Group used a contractor experienced in cruise ship furnishing to design the interior of some of the living quarters such as the messes and berthing compartments in order to increase crew comfort.
Commander Antoine Richebé then took us down one deck (there is a total of 3 decks aboard), and we entered the torpedo room. The torpedo handling system is as follows: 5 rows on two levels on the left and 5 rows on two level on the right (we were standing in between each). While we were aboard there were:
The missiles (both anti-ship and naval cruise missiles) were wrapped in some kind of fabric sleeves. We were told that these were thermal protection necessary because of the fuel of the missiles. Suffren can carry a total of 20 weapon in the torpedo handling system. Commander Richebé added that the maximum load out is 24 if the submarines sails out with pre-loaded torpedo tubes. He confirmed to be that even in this situation, weapons can still be swapped around. “It becomes like a Tetris game and is a bit cramped but it is do-able”.
- 1 training torpedo (recognizable by its orange paint)
- 4 black F21 heavyweight torpedo (the CO confirmed those were “live rounds”).
- 4 naval cruise missiles.
- 3 SM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles.
We were then showed the large fridge (large enough to store 70 days worth of food for the entire crew) and we climbed our way back up to the lock-out chamber compartment. Up to 5 fully equipped “Commando Hubert” operators (the combat divers unit of the French Naval Special Forces) can fit in the chamber. The device can also serve as the aft emergency escape hatch.