“Since taking over as Director of the SNLE 3G program in September 2015, I am proud to have overseen the program and brought it to maturity, from the technical, organisational, industrial and human point of view, during the preliminary project study phase. This program presents issues that are as complex and varied as they are fascinating. Firstly, the SNLE 3G project is extremely complex from a technical point of view: the submarine is some 150 metres long, equipped with an onboard nuclear reactor, and is tasked with ensuring continuous at-sea deterrence through its ability to deploy 16 nuclear missiles. It is made up of more than 200 different installations and is operated by a crew of over 110 submariners living in total autonomy for missions lasting more than 3 months; but what sets it apart from any other vessel is its exceptional stealth (ability to detect and not be detected).
This project is also a major industrial challenge: being one and a half times longer and three times the tonnage of the new-generation nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), the Suffren, it requires us to adapt Naval Group’s production facilities. It also means we have to mobilise each of the specific skills needed to ensure the success of the project for its entire duration (more than 30 years). That is a large-scale challenge; in liaison with Naval Group’s various production sites and entities, I make sure that the quality and quantity of our technical skills will be maintained within the company over the long term, in order to meet the program objectives.
The development of the SNLE 3G is also a human challenge. We started out with a team of about a hundred people on a summarised preliminary project, and we now have more than 400 people working at our sites in Cherbourg, Ollioules, Nantes-Indret, Angoulême-Ruelle, Lorient and Paris. I find it rewarding and motivating to coordinate these different teams, with their rich and varied experience, across multiple sites, to ensure that the program objectives are shared and under control. In addition to these 400 employees, there is also a dense industrial fabric (more than fifty suppliers have already embarked on the adventure at the current preliminary project stage) across France, also contributing to the progress and completion of the project. Coordinating all of these stakeholders is a daily challenge. Beyond the individual skills of each one – which are fundamental – the great success of the current phase is above all the collective skill acquired by all the teams: few countries possess this resource, with the capability to design and manufacture something of this kind.
As Program Director, I am in permanent contact with my customers – the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) – and I head up project negotiations with them on behalf of Naval Group. 2020 is a watershed year for developing the maturity of the project as we will be taking up three challenges: completing the project design by finalising the detailed preliminary design studies currently under way; submitting a binding offer for the development and production of the series of four SSBNs, with services covering the next 30 years, while pursuing negotiations with the customer through to the award of contract (for several billion euros); and, finally, preparing and structuring the industrial organisation needed to see the contract through. These “running start” activities are key, and must be implemented this year in order to ensure a smooth and efficient kick-off from the moment the contract is awarded. The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the extraordinary resilience of our teams, coping with numerous pressures. The collective dynamics of the project have not been impacted, and I am proud to be able to count on the commitment of the teams for this exceptional project.”
The Usine Nouvelle Women in Industry Awards recognise exemplary female careers in every industrial sector. The competition is open to all industrial companies located in France, regardless of size. Follow the link to read about Claire Ferchaud, Head of the hull workshop at Naval Group’s Lorient site, who was nominated in the “Women in Production” category.