The first French naval cruise missile launch was carried out by the nuclear-powered attack submarine Suffren.

On October 20th 2020, the Suffren, the first-in-series of the six nuclear-powered attack submarines in the Barracuda programme, successfully completed the test firing of an MdCN (Missile de Croisière Naval) cruise missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre at Biscarrosse.

French defence minister Florence Parly said:

“For the first time, a French submarine has fired a cruise missile. This success gives our Navy a new strategic capability and places it among the world’s best. This new weapon is a real breakthrough, the result of years of effort and investment, enabled by the 2019-2025 military programming law. I want to congratulate everyone – in the Navy, the DGA, and industry – who made this firing possible. Until now, France’s submarine force could strike submarines and surface ships. Henceforth, it can destroy heavy land infrastructure at long range.”

This test firing of the MdCN naval cruise missile is the last milestone in a series of tests designed to verify the functioning of the Suffren’s armaments and of its combat system in general.

“With a range of several hundred kilometres, the MdCN is tailored for missions against infrastructures of high strategic value. After the Multi-Mission Frigates (FREMM), the Suffren-class SSNs are the first French vessels to be equipped with this conventional deep strike capability. The ability to deploy the MdCN from submarines maintains the constant and undetected threat of a strike from the sea against enemy targets located far inland, and very significantly increases the penetration capacity of French weapons in military theatres of operation.”

During its trials in the Mediterranean, the Suffren also successfully completed a test firing of an Exocet SM39 underwater-launched anti-ship missile from the sea near the DGA missile test centre on Île du Levant, as well as several test firings of the F21 heavy torpedo, a next-generation weapon that will ultimately be carried on all French Navy submarines say the French defence ministry.

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Ian M.

‘ere, have zat! Maintenant, we are now ze grand fromage!

Mark B



That’s good news, as it shows that the RN may have an alternative to the sub launched cruise missile.

I wonder if MBDA have looked at giving the missile an additional anti-ship role. In the MBDA blurb, they state that the missile can target ships that are moored up or at anchor. Therefore the Infra-red sensor can already can recognize and lock onto a ship. So would it not be feasible to include a moving one?

Last edited 4 months ago by DaveyB
Peter S.

It’s what the USN are trying to do with Tomahawk. I assume the big challenge is to develop terminal guidance accurate enough to guarantee hitting a moving target.


The US have already hit moving targets with the new anti-ship version of Tomahawk. Biggest problem the UK has is our inability to purchase substantial numbers of the encapsulated sub launched version in order to field sufficient numbers in our boats to really make them a significant threat instead of grabbing headlines every time we actually manage to fire a single missile. To add to our woes we are now the only operator of the torpedo tube launched variant which is no longer in production, relying on limited existing US stocks.


Tomahawk did exist in a Radar homing anti ship version with a 500Km range …it was removed from the inventory in 1994. Now the USN is trying to bring an updated version back into service . Its needed on AB Destroyers Flight 2 and 3 because they have no anti ship capability except for the 5 in Gun and Penguin equipped Seahawks. AB flight 1 have harpoon but no helo capability.
A harpoon equipped T45 is better equipped than the USNs premier destroyer class……Shock Horror!


Not exactly true. the SM-6 has an anti ship role. Obviously not ideal against large warships but in the south china sea where china operates hundreds of small, fast missile carriers and corvettes i’d imagine an SM-2 or SM-6 due to its speed and high-fragmentation warhead would make those combat inefective. The larger anti-ship missiles such as LRASM and tomahawk would sink the larger ships. actually, i just looked it up- the SM-6 travels above mach 3.5 with a 140lb warhead- thats larger than i thought. would be very interesting to see what sort of damage that would do to… Read more »


USN has already developed the stealthy LRASM in use by the B-1B and currently being modified for use from VLS cells on ships. I believe the LCS uses the Norwegian NSM. A very effective missile but with a much shorter range than either the anti ship Tomahawk or LRASM.

John Clark

The problem is Davey, it has significantly shorter legs than Tomahawk.

That somewhat limits it’s usefulness and means a French sub had to get uncomfortably close to an enemy shore for a long range shot.


1000+km (1500+ for surface ship) is short range ?

John Clark

500 to 600 miles is a significantly shorter strike range than Tomahawk.

The point being that should orders dictate striking a target well inland, a French boat might have to get significantly closer to the shore, with all the dangers that entails for the crew.


Tomahawk is so cheap relative to the newer cruise missiles being developed. There needs to be 2 categories. 1 for first night of conflict to target well defended infrastructure and radar sites but 1 much cheaper for saturation targeting. The US ability to launch several hundred in 1 night cannot be understated. Any UK and French contribution has done little more than grab a headline.

Mark B

Well perhaps we need to get used to the prospect that we might have to operate independently of the US.


Until we start equipping our military properly it will never happen. The Bosnia and Kosovo operations never would have gone ahead without the US carrying out 90% of the air strikes.

Mark B

I agree. We need to build our military in an affordable way which meets the reality that military support from the Americans can no longer be relied upon. The issue we are left with is who we can rely upon?


So we end up with two state of the art carriers for a handful of F35Bs?

Mark B

Oh no, we will equip the carriers.


American will always stand by the British. Don’t believe all the fake left wing media reports. All America is asking is for it’s allies to start doing their fair share especially in things like ships, subs, hvy lift, refueling, ect. I think that is a fair request. The US military is under a lot of strain dealing with the threats in the Pacific, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Mark B

I’m glad to hear that Dan.

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, it’s a political statement only regards an allied operation.

But still, the UK has the capability if it is needed for a UK only operation.


Yes, that’s the main difference, Block IV Tomahawk has a range of 900nm whilst SCALP/Storm Shadow has a range of between 300 and 350nm. Reading the blurb on the Block V upgrades, its getting the ability to attack shipping plus an optional deep penetration warhead, much like the Broach version of SCALP.


I believe that the MdCM version of SCALP/SS is a larger version and has a longer range 500-600 NM I believe, still shorter then Block IV though.

Wouldn’t know if the French intend to get an anti shipping ability included for this, but think that base might well be covered by Perseus if/when it appears.


My thoughts are that Scalp/Storm Shadow would be an excellent choice as an interim solution until Perseus comes in. Its pretty stealthy and has a very good IR sensor. So more of a scaled up NSM complete with a bigger warhead.


Fair point, not sure when TBk IV OSD is, but would certainly provide a need capability to breech the gap.
Current blurb on Perseus indicates higher speed but less range and smaller warhead then MdCM, so, perhaps not really a like for like solution, but yes, definitely a possibility.


I think the issue is sufficient targeting information. If the missile could be locked on by an external asset (F-35, Destroyers etc) then it would be possible but that would need datalink which I am not sure it has. Stationary ships are fine as they are essentially able to be pre-programmed into the targeting computers.


Storm Shadow/Scalp uses a two-way datalink, so it can be retargeted in flight. The two way data link allows the operator to see what the missile’s sensor sees. The manufacturer’s blurb doesn’t state if a third party can take control of the missile once in flight. However it can be programmed to loiter and can also perform a programmed attack profile, i.e. bunt then dive etc.


If targeting can be fed to it by an other asset then it would be able to be used to attack ships. I am not sure if this is the case at the moment although I am sure it is theoretically possible. The problem is that a Sub is unlikely to be able to accurately target a ship that is far away.


When using a SM as a launch vehicle, you are correct, it would require some form of 3rd party targeting to get it into the vacinity of the target.


Slightly off topic. “On board Britain’s nuclear submarine: Trident”. Channel 5 tomorrow (Wednesday).


This just yhe French trying to look big. Yawn. If the UK has to go it alone in an op it has a carrier and F35’s coming on line – more than enough. The UK is unlikely to face off against a peer enemy without US support.


Anybody else getting a gross advert picturing a cotton bud coated in thick ear wax on this article?

Daniele Mandelli

Nope. Bad breath!!


I think it’s a pretty cool picture. As it shows the start of the sequence between the separation of the rocket booster and the missile, along with the start up of the missile’s turbojet engine.