October 22, 2020 (Google Translation) – It is first of all to the sailors, that I wish to address myself today to tell them that the Pearl is repairable.
On June 12, a fire broke out in the bow of the nuclear attack submarine Perle , while it was undergoing major maintenance in a basin at the Toulon naval base.
Nearly 300 people had been mobilized to fight against the flames, defeated after 14 hours of fighting. I want to salute their courage once again and thank them for their commitment.
The day after the fire, in Toulon, I declared that if the Pearl could be repaired, everything would be done to have it repaired.
Since June, the best experts from Naval Group, the Fleet Support Service of the French Navy and the General Directorate of Armaments have worked hard to present me with a precise analysis of the extent of damage and possibilities for redress.
These in-depth studies were carried out jointly by Naval Group and the Navy. They have been verified by the DGA. And, I am able to tell you that we can mend the Pearl .
We can mend the Pearl , and we’ll mend it . I say in the first place “we can”, because the road which opens before us is long and arduous.
So yes, we are going to mend the Pearl , and believe that this decision does not underestimate any difficulty. It affirms an ambition and confidence in our resource and our collective capacities. It will be reassessed at each stage of the repair, in the light of expertise and our requirements on which we will not compromise.
Concretely, it is a repair site which will mobilize 300 people and which should last 6 months.
To come more specifically to the repair operation: during the fire, it was the front part of the Pearl that burned. The temperatures to which the steel has been subjected have altered its qualities and it is this steel which absorbs the very strong pressures of the sea. The first step in the repair will be to cut out this damaged part, which will be dismantled.
The rear part, on the other hand, that which surrounded the nuclear boiler and the propulsion of the SNA before it started work, is perfectly intact. So we’re going to weld the back of the Pearl with the front of the Saphir , the nuclear attack submarine that we retired from active service a year ago. We will then reconnect the interior connections, cables and pipes. La Perle will then complete its major maintenance at the point where it was interrupted on June 12.
I remind you that during the fire, the Pearl was very largely empty: nuclear fuel, weapons, fuels had been removed during maintenance but also electronic bays and many vital organs such as pumps, fans and others. technical installations. These are the same elements that will be reinstalled after the repair.
It is a complex operation as a whole, which few countries can envisage, but which we embark on with confidence. Because despite the circumstances, each step of this repair corresponds to a proven know-how: these are technologies that Naval Group and the State services know and master.
To build the submarines in Cherbourg, Naval Group welds sections filled with most of their equipment, which must then be connected to each other. We also know how to cut submarines, French or foreign, to access installations for heavy maintenance or to add units and equipment. The State services know and know how to control these operations, whether they take place within the framework of the production of our new submarines, the technical shutdowns of our ANSs or those of our even more complex SSBNs.
We will be particularly demanding with regard to the trial and return protocol to the Pearl Sea . Because if my goal is to repair the Pearl , my priority is to give our country back this operational capacity by ensuring the safety of the submariners who will go on mission on board. The French Ministry of the Armed Forces will therefore pay particular attention to diving safety as part of the return to service of the SNA. And I will take care of it personally, with the Chief of the Naval Staff and the General Delegate for Armaments.
Today, all the analyzes available to us show that this operation is feasible, without compromising either the safety of the sailors or the continuity of our missions.
Repairing the Pearl is not just a remarkable industrial operation. It is first and foremost to preserve the independence of France, and it is to assert our sovereignty.
This decision allows the French Navy to retain its full nuclear attack submarine capacity for the next ten years.
By making this choice, we are showing that France never resigns itself to lowering its guard. We show that France is ready and that it can act if the circumstances require it. We prove our resilience and we guarantee our sovereignty.
Today, this is possible thanks to the work of French engineering and industrial know-how. I have confidence in our industry, in our engineers, technicians, welders and workers to take up this immense challenge.
This excellence was demonstrated again two days ago, off Biscarosse, when our new generation submarine Suffren successfully fired a naval cruise missile for the first time. And I extend my congratulations to the teams who have contributed to this success.
Finally, I would like to have a few words for the sailors, in particular for the submariners whose courage and professionalism I want to salute. Because there is the prowess of the ship, the showcase of technology and power which ensures our sovereignty; but above all there are sailors engaged in the corridors of silence.
Today, you can place all your confidence in the expertise of the French Navy, the DGA and the Naval Group. Submariners, you can count on my determination to give you the means and the conditions to accomplish your missions.
Long live the Republic !
Long live France !