A French nuclear-powered submarine severely damaged by fire last year has been saved from the scrapyard — by cutting it in two and welding the salvageable half to part of another decommissioned sub.
The nuclear-powered Perle was severely damaged in a fire last year, leaving the front section of the boat unusable according to the French Defence Ministry.
Though the accidental blaze, which broke out while the ship was in dock in Toulon, southern France, raged for 14 hours, the rear half of the 241-foot-long sub was undamaged.
Officials determined that another submarine awaiting dismantlement at a shipyard in the northwestern port of Cherbourg could be split and joined with the rear of the Perle to make a functional attack submarine.
The Perle was transported to Cherbourg in December and cut in half in February. A month later, the other submarine – the Saphir – was also cut in half, the French shipbuilder Naval Group said in a press release.
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.
Nadaradjane said industry regulations did not allow the company to give a cost for the operation.
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.