Toulon Naval Base is the second-largest naval port in France. Located on the south-east coast of the country, the base is the home port of the French Navy Mediterranean fleet.
Toulon also houses the Commander US Sixth Fleet (COMSIXTHFLT) office. Ship repair and maintenance operations at the port are controlled by the French naval defence company DCNS (Direction des Constructions Navales Services).
Toulon Naval Base location and layout
The port is located in the city of Toulon, near Marseille. The base lies on the north and north-eastern sides of the Petite Rade body of water. Petite Rade is separated from the larger Grande Rade de Toulon by a 1.3km-long breakwater. This also protects the inner harbour from open ocean waves.
The naval port was built between 1595 and 1610. In 1638, the Escatante became the first warship to be constructed at the port. The base was expanded in the 19th and 20th centuries. 29 submarines were built at the port between 1888 and 1913, and five torpedo boats were built between 1903 and 1913. The port was damaged by Allied bombing in World War II, and was later reconstructed and modernised.
The port resumed shipbuilding operations in 1939. It was operated as a French submarine base until 1940 and a German base between 1940 and 1945.
It became a dockyard and a torpedo factory after 1945. The port currently operates as a repair and maintenance base.
Toulon port operations
Toulon Naval Base is the home port of over 70 French Navy ships including submarines and surface fleet. The six-submarine French attack submarine squadron (ESNA) and the French Mediterranean fleet, including the Levant fleet and the force d’action navale (FAN), are based at the port. The Charles de Gaulle (R91) aircraft carrier has Toulon as its home port.
DCNS operates and maintains the Toulon port facilities. It is responsible for the maintenance of the attack submarines, Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and surface vessels. Other operations include integration of weapon systems and fluid power systems.
The port has 11 drydocks and quays dedicated for ship repair and maintenance services. The base is divided into four sections – Castigneau, Malbousquet, Missiessy and Milhaud. Each section is accessible from the sea.
The drydocks are designed to accommodate medium and large craft. Honour quay is used to hold foreign ships, while the Missiessy and Malbousquet quays are used to harbour nuclear attack submarines. These quays have a range of drydocks and are equipped with mobile roofs to accommodate the submarines during the refitting of nuclear equipment.
The Milhaud quays are the main mooring points for frigates, aircraft carriers, fleet tankers and landing ships.
The Vauban dock is for the mooring of small ships including diving support vessels, mine countermeasure ships, tug boats and patrol boats.
Other facilities and services
The school of underwater navigation and nuclear-powered building (BPN-ENSM) is based outside the port of Toulon. It provides training to the crews of attack submarines. The school also trains the staff working on the propulsion of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. The training facility is spread over an area of 3,600m² and has 16 simulators, nine classrooms and a computer network connecting 50 stations. The school can train approximately 600 crewmembers a year.
The training institute of the navy medical corps is also located at the base. The trainees of the École de Santé Navale (naval medical school) undergo specific training at the centre. The naval museum at the port showcases the collection of 18th-century ship models.