According to CNN, The damaged Perle was moved from Toulon to Cherbourg on a semi-submersibile ship in December.
At the beginning of this month, the back half of the Perle and the front half of the Saphir were put on “walkers” at the Cherbourg shipyard so they could be carefully aligned and then welded together, the Naval Group release said. Naval Group spokesperson Klara Nadaradjane said the joining work would be completed in the coming months.
The resulting submarine, which will still be called the Perle, will be about four-and-a-half feet (1.4 meters) longer than either of its predecessors to accommodate a “junction area” while the miles of cables and pipes that run through the sub will be spliced together, the release said. The junction area will also provide room for new living quarters, adding a bit of space for the crew of 70 submariners.
All that work will be rehearsed using a three-dimensional digital model before being attempted aboard the submarine, Naval Group said. The task involves 100,000 hours of engineering studies and 250,000 hours of industrial work by 300 people, it said. The Perle, commissioned in 1993, was the newest of what once were six Rubis-class nuclear submarines in the French fleet. The Saphir, the second boat in the class, was commissioned in 1984, serving 35 years before its decommissioning.
The Rubis-class subs are scheduled to be replaced in coming years by the new Barracuda nuclear-powered submarines, the first of which, the Suffren, was delivered to the French navy in November. But the sixth Barracuda sub isn’t expected to join the fleet until 2030, so the half-and-half Perle will be needed to keep French attack sub numbers at the required six, according to Naval Group.
Franck Ferrer, programs director for the Services Division of Naval Group, said in January that the new Perle was expected to be moved back to Toulon late this year for more technical work and upgrades to its combat systems before entering the French fleet in early 2023. “Carrying out this type of project in these circumstances, i.e. repair work that involves joining the fore and aft ends of two sister ships, is of course a first in the modern history of Naval Group,” Ferrer said.