PARIS — The French DGA military procurement agency successfully test-fired the M51.2 strategic ballistic missile on Wednesday morning from its Biscarosse test site on France’s Atlantic coast.
The missile, central to France’s nuclear deterrence policy, was not carrying a warhead and the test was undertaken “in the strict respect of France’s international treaty commitments,” according to a statement issued by the Ministry for the Armed Forces.
Although the M51.2 missile is already operational, it is regularly tested. Data and lessons learned from the tests are used for development of the next increment of the missile, the M51.3, which is scheduled for delivery to the French Navy in 2025. This version should have a range several hundred kilometers beyond the capacity of the M51.2 and will equip the four third-generation, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that will replace the Le Triomphant class from 2035.
The missile was followed along its flight path by the DGA’s missile test team until it landed in the North Atlantic “several hundred kilometers from any coastline.”
Florence Parly, minister for the Armed Forces, said in the statement that she was satisfied with the test and “heartily congratulated” staff from the ministry, from the CEA atomic and alternative energy agency, and the companies who all participated in the test.
The 54 tonne (60 ton) M51 is the key component of the French Strategic Ocean Force. It is a three-stage, sea-land strategic ballistic missile carried aboard the four French Le Triomphant class submarines. Each missile can carry six to 10 independently targetable TN 75 thermonuclear warheads.
The prime contractor for the program is ArianeGroup, responsible for upstream research, design, development and production of the missiles, the land-based operating infrastructure and the command and control system aboard the submarines. The company is also responsible for in-service support and end-of-life disposal. ArianeGroup works with 140 suppliers on this program, but overall more than 900 companies are involved.