The French Ministry of Defense announced via their official Twitter account that the M51 strategic ballistic missile has successfully undergone its sixth consecutive test from the Le Terrible submarine missile platform. Developed and manufactured by Ariane Group, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran, the M51 is a French ballistic missile designed for sea-based launches and has been in service since 2010. The missile serves as a vital component of France’s military deterrence strategy and national security.
During the recent test, the M51 was tested without a warhead, as stated by French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu. The test was conducted under the strict supervision of the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and the Ministry of Defense of France, and in compliance with France’s international commitments.
The M51 is 12 meters tall and 2.3 meters in diameter and is powered by a three-stage solid-fuel rocket engine. It has a maximum flight speed of Mach 25 and a range of between 8,000 km and 10,000 km. The missile utilizes an astro-inertial guidance system, with plans to develop a version that incorporates a Galileo guidance system. It is solely operated by France.
The French Triomphant-class submarine Le Terrible (S619) served as the naval platform for the test. Le Terrible is a nuclear-class submarine capable of diving to a depth of 400 meters and reaching a maximum speed of over 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). It can carry 16 M45 or M51 nuclear ballistic missiles and possesses an integrated system for electronic warfare and decoys. The submarine is also equipped with the Exocet SM39 cruise missile and has anti-ship capabilities via four 533 mm (21 in) tubes for F17 torpedoes.
The French ministry of Defense also mentioned that “this firing confirms the operational capacity of the SSBN Le Terrible’s deterrent weapon system, which is currently in IPER or ‘large fairing’ and will soon be back in the operational cycle. It once again demonstrates the excellence of the defense industry of France”.