The French Navy’s ‘Le Téméraire’ nuclear-powered submarine test fired an M51 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on June 12.
“The nuclear-powered Le Téméraire successfully fired an M51 strategic ballistic missile off Finistère,” Florence Parly, French Minister of Armed Forces, tweeted Friday.
The test was carried out without a nuclear warhead off Britany in Western France. The missile was tracked throughout its flight phase by radars and by the missile range instrumentation ship Monge (A601). The fallout zone was located in the North Atlantic, several hundred of kilometers from any coast.
M51 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile
The M51 started replacing the M45 in 2010. Open source data indicates an M51 weight of 52,000 kg, a length of 12.0 m and a diameter of 2.3 m. M51 operational range is reported to be 8,000 to 10,000 km with a speed of Mach 25. The three-stage engine of the M51 is directly derived from the solid propellant boosters of the European Ariane 5 space rocket.
Each missile carries six to ten independently targetable (Multiple Independently targeted Reentry Vehicle) TN 75 thermonuclear warheads. Since 2015, TN 75 are being replaced with the new Tête nucléaire océanique (TNO or oceanic nuclear warhead) warheads. These new warheads are reported to be maneuverable (Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicle) in order to avoid potential ballistic defenses. The TNO has a yield that is estimated to be greater than or equal to the yield of the TN 75 warhead, 150 kilotons of TNT (kt) with a CEP (circular error probability) of 150 meters.