Minister for the Armed Forces of France, Mrs. Florence Parly , expressed her great satisfaction after the successful June 12, 2020 launch of an M51 SLBM (In French terminology the MSBS – Mer-Sol-Balistique-Stratégique “Sea-ground-Strategic ballistic”) by the nuclear-powered missile submarine Le Téméraire from Audierne Bay in the Finistère. The Minister sent her warmest congratulations to all the women and men of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA) and the companies that have worked for its success.
The missile was tracked throughout its flight phase by radar. The targeted zone is located in the North Atlantic, several hundred kilometers from any coast. This test was carried out without a nuclear warhead and in strict compliance with France’s international commitments. This launch validates the operational capability of the Le Téméraire submarine’s global weapon system and once again demonstrates the high technological excellence that French industries have attained in this field. The M51 missile is now operational on all nuclear-powered missile submarines in service.
The M51 SLBM is a French submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by ArianeGroup, and deployed with the French Navy. Designed to replace the M45 SLBM, it was first deployed in 2010. Each missile carries six to ten independently targetable TN 75 thermonuclear warheads. The three-stage engine of the M51 is directly derived from the solid propellant boosters of Ariane 5. The missiles are a compromise over the M5 SLBM design, which was to have a range of 11,000 km (6,800 mi) and carry 10 new generation Tête nucléaire océanique’ (“Oceanic nuclear warhead”) MIRVs. Design work on the M5 started in the late 1980s by Aerospatiale, before the programme was renamed the M51 in 1996, when development costs decreased by 20 percent.
After having spent €5 billion ($6.7 billion) developing the missile, the French government placed a €3 billion ($3.9 billion) order with EADS SPACE Transportation for the M51 in December 2004. The contract covered serial production of the M51 for 10 years, with the company to be responsible for sustained readiness support throughout the missile’s life.In 2014 Airbus signed a deal with the French government for development work on an upgrade designated M51.3 to equip the successor to the Triomphant class. On 10 May 2016 Airbus and Safran signed a joint 50-50 partnership to develop the M51.3 upgrade intended to enter service around 2025.