Military Review

Concept design of the electric submarine SMX31E (France)


General view of SMX31E

In 2018, the French shipbuilding company Naval Group presented an interesting concept design for the promising SMX31 submarine. A few days ago, during the exhibition, Euronaval Online presented an updated version of this project with a number of original innovations. The new project SMX31E unites the most daring decisions, which should positively affect the fighting qualities and commercial prospects.

Project update

The presented project SMX31E is based on a number of basic concept ideas, but there are noticeable innovations. To improve the main technical and combat characteristics, the structure and exterior of the ship have been redesigned, the introduction of new devices and systems is proposed. At the same time, overly complex components were dropped. At the same time, the theoretical possibility of solving a wide range of problems with the use of various weapons or special equipment remains.

View from above

The SMX31E boat should be 80 m long and approx. 10 m. The underwater displacement is 3200 tons. Outwardly, such a ship is similar to the base sample. The use of "bionic" hull contours with good hydrodynamic performance is envisaged. There are no deckhouse with fencing, instead of them the boat must carry a small projecting fairing. In the aft part, the fairings of the water cannons are preserved. Horizontal rudders appeared on the sides, and X-shaped planes remained in the stern.

The hull should receive a polymer protective coating to prevent noise from escaping the boat and interfering with detection by active means. At the same time, the concept SMX31E, unlike its predecessor, does not offer the use of "smart" coating, which works as an additional sonar station. It was abandoned due to its excessive complexity.

Features of hydrodynamics

The layout resembles modern submarines, but it has its own characteristics. The bow of the boat accommodates hydroacoustic equipment, behind which there are living compartments, a central post, etc. The central and aft parts are given for the elements of the power plant, and also have free space for one or another equipment, for example, for underwater unmanned vehicles. The power plant is removed outside the robust body, freeing up significant volumes.

The project provides for a high degree of automation of all major processes. In addition, measures are being taken to simplify routine maintenance, incl. while hiking. All this makes it possible to reduce the crew to 15 people, which gives additional advantages of a technical and other nature. For individual missions, the submarine can accommodate up to 20 people. additional crew.

Power plant of the future

The SMX31E concept offers a fully electric power plant. Diesel or other engines, incl. there are no air-independent ones, due to which the noise level is sharply reduced in all modes without losses in other characteristics. In addition, there is no need to move on the surface or at periscope depth with atmospheric air intake.

Submarine layout

The power plant is based on high-capacity storage batteries. It is proposed to place the battery pits in the central and stern parts of the boat, incl. in volumes that could be used to install engines. Curiously, some of the batteries fit inside a solid case, while others are outside. This is intended to facilitate maintenance and battery replacement for repairs or upgrades.

The movement will be provided by two running electric motors. As in the previous version of the project, they are placed in the side fairings outside the rugged hull and are equipped with water cannons. Such a power plant will provide high driving performance with minimal noise. Plus, it saves space inside the rugged case.

According to calculations, even modern batteries can provide sufficiently high driving characteristics. At an economic speed of 5 knots, the SMX31E submarine will be able to stay on a cruise for up to 60 days. At 8 nodes, the service life will exceed 40 days. At the same time, unlike diesel-electric submarines, the SMX31E can remain underwater throughout the entire trip without intermediate ascents.

Placement of weapons, drone compartments, etc.

Combat capabilities

In the new project, the complex of weapons was seriously reworked. From universal vertical launchers for missiles of different types were abandoned in favor of a set of torpedo tubes. Several of these products are placed in the center of the hull and in the stern. They must use both torpedoes and missiles of various types to attack underwater, surface or coastal targets. The total ammunition load is defined as 24 torpedoes and / or missiles.

In the aft part of the hull, where the engine room could be located, there is a compartment for the transportation and maintenance of underwater unmanned vehicles. The exit of the apparatus outside and boarding the boat is carried out through the upper airlock. The range of drones should be determined by the customer, taking into account his needs and the intended task of the submarine. First of all, devices with reconnaissance devices that can improve situational awareness should be used. The dimensions of the compartment allow you to take up to 6 medium or up to 2 heavy devices.

Futuristic central post

The SMX31E can be equipped with an airlock to support combat swimmers. In the presented diagrams, this device is placed in the lower part of the hull, under the crew compartments.

In the updated design, the "smart" coating of the body was abandoned in favor of traditional detection means. The hydroacoustic complex antennas are placed under the nose cone and on the sides. Retractable devices of traditional composition are also provided, however, they are not located in a protruding fence, but inside the body.

The forward compartments house the central post and two data centers of the combat information and control system. CIUS must process “big data” from all sources to analyze the current situation for issuing information to the crew and weapons commands. The central station and crew stations are built entirely on the basis of electronics, which gives them a futuristic appearance. It is planned to add network functions to interact with other combat units, incl. to control their unmanned vehicles.

In terms of its combat capabilities and characteristics, the SMX31E submarine will surpass existing samples. The Naval Group reports that the forces of one such ship can control the area 10 times more than using one modern diesel-electric submarine of the Scorpène type.

From concept to reality

At the moment, the SMX31 and SMX31E submarines exist only in the form of concepts that combine the most daring and original proposals. Two concept projects show the way forward fleet with the use of modern and promising technologies - and with the abandonment of traditional solutions that underlie current submarines.

Development of the technical design and construction of SMX31E boats is not yet planned. At the same time, the Naval Group company is ready to do this if there is a real order. According to the development company, the design of the necessary components and the submarine as a whole will take about 10 years. The same amount will be spent on the construction of the lead ship and its subsequent tests before being accepted into service.

Thus, a hypothetical electric submarine of French design may not enter service until 2040 or later. Obviously, by this time, the European fleets considered as customers of the SMX31 (E) will need to update their submarine forces - and French shipbuilders will be able to offer them a fundamentally new submarine.

Future fleet

The search for solutions for further improvement of submarines does not stop, and the French company Naval Group takes an active part in these processes. Over the past few years, she has proposed a number of concepts using one or another promising technology, although none of them has yet reached full development and implementation.

The next concept SMX31E offers an interesting combination of modern and advanced technologies, which, in theory, is capable of increasing the main combat and operational characteristics. However, some of these solutions need further development and refinement, without which they cannot be implemented in a real project. Such processes will take a lot of time, and the developer does not hide it.

The prospects for the SMX31E project and other similar developments depend not only on the level of technology development and the ability of shipbuilders to use them. Customer interest becomes a key factor. If the navy of France or another country shows interest, the promising project will be continued and will come to construction and operation. Otherwise, materials on the concept will go to the archive, and shipbuilders will look for new options for using promising technologies.
Photos used:
Naval Group /
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  1. BDRM 667
    BDRM 667 30 October 2020 05: 52
    a hypothetical electric submarine of French design may not enter service until 2040 or later. Obviously, by this time, the European fleets considered as customers of the SMX31 (E) will need to update their submarine forces - and French shipbuilders will be able to offer them a fundamentally new submarine.

    "Bottleneck" any similar projects are batteries.
    Only the appearance of cheap, reliable, safe in operation (I will not list all the parameters) batteries will make it possible to start implementing something like that ...
    And when this happens, by 2040, earlier or later, technical progress (or lack thereof) will show.
    1. Snail N9
      Snail N9 30 October 2020 06: 16
      I agree. Available lithium-polymer or lithium-ion are not safe to use and tend to heat up to significant limits under load. In addition, they are dangerous in case of short circuit in the sections of which the batteries will be composed. So far, mini nuclear installations are seen as preferable or HNEU based on hydrogen.
      1. Lexus
        Lexus 31 October 2020 02: 55
        The Japanese, however, are building the next series of submarines "electric". In addition to the last two boats of the Soryu class, which are already undergoing tests without any particular complaints. hi

    2. And Makarov
      And Makarov 30 October 2020 06: 22
      Quote: BDRM 667
      And when this happens, by 2040, earlier or later, technical progress will show

      Therefore, while "concepts" are being created, which in general is not difficult.
      1. BDRM 667
        BDRM 667 30 October 2020 06: 33
        Quote: A Makarov
        Therefore, while "concepts" are being created, which in general is not difficult.

        Somehow, deep down, we are all experimenters yes
    3. vVvAD
      vVvAD 30 October 2020 12: 05
      And to what extent are hydrogen fuel cells applicable for these purposes at the present stage of their implementation?
  2. Doccor18
    Doccor18 30 October 2020 07: 11
    Beautiful pictures...
    Even the long-awaited nuclear submarines in the fleet have been built for more than 10 years ...
    The boat that survived the fire is going to be assembled from two ... since there is nowhere else to reduce the pennant composition ...
    1. vVvAD
      vVvAD 30 October 2020 12: 10
      This is from the category of "desire and reality".
      Nevertheless, dreams do come true © sometimes - this possibility should also be remembered, as well as the fact that France is a NATO member.
  3. Sahalinets
    Sahalinets 30 October 2020 09: 18
    Even the best modern accumulators have an energy capacity of 2-3 percent of the oil level calculated by weight. Until this figure is increased by at least an order of magnitude, it is not worth even thinking about purely electric submarines.
  4. prior
    prior 30 October 2020 11: 39
    It's time for the French to design body armor for the neck, and they are designing electric submarines.
    1. And Makarov
      And Makarov 30 October 2020 11: 44
      Quote: prior
      body armor for neck

      Then armored scarves and armored ties.
  5. Operator
    Operator 30 October 2020 12: 19
    The shape of the French submarine is quite suitable for a promising Russian SSNS - provided that the hull is made of titanium, a single-shaft water cannon with active suppression of the impeller noise is installed, a Poseidon nuclear power plant is installed, all mechanisms are mounted on a single vibration-insulated platform, and a magnetic antenna is wound on the inside of the housing for constant reception of ultra-low-frequency radio signals from the Zeus transmitter.

    And also to reduce the displacement to 1000 tons, the crew to 10 people and the ammunition to 4 hypersonic "Zircons" and 4 supercavitating "Predators" (plus small-caliber anti-torpedoes).

    And do not forget to cover the body with a PTFE film doped with cholecalciferol - for active suppression of signals from external hydroacoustic location and passive noise direction finding of underwater and surface targets.

    It is necessary to build a promising SSNS in Nizhny Novgorod - since other Russian shipyards do not know how to do anything, except how to produce new underwater monsters from the category of +10000 tons and +1 billion dollars.
    1. Denimax
      Denimax 30 October 2020 14: 02
      The body can be seamless on 3D printing, and the screw is of large diameter, large pitch, and at low speeds?
      1. Operator
        Operator 30 October 2020 14: 44
        The outside of the MCSAPL body is covered with a fluoroplastic film, therefore the presence / absence of seams does not matter.

        In terms of low noise, the most effective water cannon with one impeller installed between the inlet and outlet guide vanes with antiphase vibration suppressors.
        1. Denimax
          Denimax 30 October 2020 14: 55
          A seamless monolithic hull, I think it will better provide deep water. The water cannon in my mind is somehow badly associated with noiselessness. Perhaps I am wrong.
          1. prodi
            prodi 30 October 2020 15: 05
            and there may be more "rare", but larger, deflected and bending (under the thrown flow of water) propeller blades?
          2. Operator
            Operator 30 October 2020 15: 25
            3D printing technology does not provide a solid body to withstand water pressure at a depth of several hundred meters.

            The water cannon, consisting of one impeller, already cuts off the noise radiating in the radial direction with its body. Vibration dampers installed in the water intake and jet nozzle will suppress noise in the axial direction.
    2. pmkemcity
      pmkemcity 2 November 2020 17: 23
      Quote: Operator
      cover the body with a PTFE film doped with cholecalciferol

      Stop making fun of people! Cholecalciferol is soluble in alcohol, and therefore is not suitable for use on a submarine.
      Cholecalciferol, vitamin D₃ is an organic compound, a fat-soluble vitamin. Formed in the skin by UV rays from 7-dehydrocholesterol. Properties. White crystalline powder. Insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol, diethyl ether, chloroform, vegetable oils. Wikipedia
      1. Operator
        Operator 2 November 2020 17: 54
        Everything is correct, except for one thing - the chemical compound cholecalciferol (except that from a biological point of view it is vitamin D3) serves as a doping substance for fluoroplastic in order to enhance its piezoelectric characteristics. Cholecalciferol in a fluoroplastic matrix does not dissolve in alcohol, ether, chloroform and oils.
  6. Alien From
    Alien From 30 October 2020 20: 08
    The French can do it, now they are producing very serious military electronics.
    1. agond
      agond 30 October 2020 22: 03
      It is interesting to imagine a modernized Varshavyanka without a diesel engine, tanks with diesel fuel, but with the addition of batteries both inside the durable case and in the interbody space, and it will take a lot of them there.
      1. Alien From
        Alien From 30 October 2020 22: 06
        It is possible to imagine, hardly to realize.
        1. agond
          agond 30 October 2020 22: 22
          If it turns out that lithium-ion batteries are able to withstand high external pressure, then, for example, they can be placed one at a time in a rubber package filled with a dielectric neutral liquid, connected into garlands that are then placed in the interbody space, the ignition of a separate battery will not lead to serious consequences.
  7. Lexus
    Lexus 31 October 2020 02: 59
    Futuristic. But TOMORROW is coming by leaps and bounds.
  8. Navigator Basov
    Navigator Basov 31 October 2020 23: 01
    Wow eggplant! The main thing is that the engine does not stall in some strait, and this eggplant does not float upside down. But for a fantastic movie and games, the sample is already useful.