Built by the Cherbourg Naval Arsenal and launched on 4th May 1901, the French Submarine Sirène entered service on 14th December 1901 with three sisters Triton, Espadon and Silure. Constructed with a partial double hull, she measured 32.5 metres in length with a 3.9 metre beam. Designed by Cherbourg-based naval engineer Maxine Laubeuf, she was France's first fully submersible vessel and, with modified hull and reduced buoyancy (26, the Sirène could go underwater for several hours at a time with an operational range of 600 miles surface and 55 miles submerged. However, the Sirène was still small in size and living conditions were extremely basic rendering any journey exceeding one day at sea uncomfortable for her 13-man crew. The armament consisted of four 45cm. torpedoes fixed in the external frames then favoured by the French navy, and launched using the complicated Drezewiecki system aft and Tissier system forward, both of which required simultaneous discharge from a moving vessel.
The Sirenès were never needed for their intended purpose (attacking British shipping in the Channel) and led active peacetime careers operating in France's Atlantic and North Sea Coasts. A loss of interest in them in 1902 meant an order for 8 more was cancelled yet they are considered to have heavily influenced the design for the German U-1 launched in 1906. Although it was realised by 1914 that the fighting value of these boats was minimal, they nevertheless served throughout the First World War as part of a local defence flotilla at Cherbourg and finally sent for breaking up in November 1919.