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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

M-5 / M-51

In 1992, the French defense ministry launched the development of the new generation MSBS, the M-5. This continues the tradition of improvements in the MSBS system since 1971, when the first system, M-1, entered service. The operational commissioning of the M 51.1 missile was pronounced simultaneously on the "Terrible". Its development could be driven with only five launches which is a feat of engineers. In order to achieve this result, the simulation capabilities of the Astrium and DCNS manufacturers had to be significantly expanded, as well as the use of firing at a level never before achieved.

The latest development of the MSBS (Mer-Sol-Balistique-Stratégique) family was the M-5 SLBM planned for the seventh French SSBN Le Triomphant, which entered service in 1995, and the first of four new SSBN known in France as the SNLE-NG (Sous-marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engins - Nouvelle Génération). The first SNLEs werer initially expected to carry the improved M-45 variant SLBM, until the M-5 availability in 2010. The `Le Triomphant' submarines are fitted with 16 SLBM launch tubes. Full-scale development of M-5 was scheduled to start in 1993. A proposal was made to develop a land-based version for location in the Plateau d'Albion as a replacement for the S-3 missiles, with up to 10 land-based M-5 missiles (known as S-5) located in the S-3 silos, but this proposal was cancelled in 1993 in favor of adapting the existing M-4 design.

The three stage solid propellant M-5 missile is to have a range of 11000 km, together with modern penetration aids capable of matching the perceived upgrades to the Moscow anti-ballistic missile system. The missile is around 12.0 m long, with a body diameter of 2.3 m and a launch weight of 48000 kg. The payload was initailly reported as being between 6 to 10 MIRV using the TN 76 nuclear warhead with an expected yield of 100 kT. It is expected that penetration aids will be carried.

The M-5 missile was planned for introduction into service in 2010 as a replacement for the M-4 and M-45 SLBM, with full-scale development scheduled to start in 1993.

In February 1996, the President of France confirmed the pursuit of the program with certain changes in specifications to conform with budgetary constraints. The new missile, the M-51, would nonetheless conserve the essential characteristics planned for the M-5. Falling under the concept of strict sufficiency, this program was reorientated towards the version M 51, with a range of about 6,000 kilometers and able to carry the nuclear heads of new generation (TNO (Têtes Nucléaires Océaniques)) after 2015.

During the night of 17-18 April 2001 France carried out the first test firing of part of the the M-51. Although the test involved an M45 ballistic missile, the main purpose was to assess materials and equipment for the M51. The missile was fired from the nuclear submarine Inflexible off the Brittany coast a distance of more than 5,000 km across the Atlantic to a point near Guyana, in South America.

The first test flight for the M51 itself was not due until 2005, while delivery was originally slated to begin in 2008. The first flight test took place in 2006, from a launchpad, followed by another one in 2007. The third flight test took place in 2008 from a submerged tank. Development of the M51 was completed in mid-2009 with the M51 test fired for the first time from Le Terrible SNLE in 2010.

The M51 missiles have a range of around 6,000 km and cost 32.7 billion francs without warheads (E5bn, $4bn) to develop rather than 42 billion for the M5. This saving comes at the cost of a reduced range. The M5 was to be able to carry a 1,400 kg payload to a range of 6,000 km or a 200 kg as far as 14,000 km, in the latter case with one or two rather than six nuclear warheads.

The M-51 is a three-stage missile with a total mass of over 50 tonnes (compared to 35 for the M4). The stages use solid propulsion and are equipped with flexible nozzles. Their structures are made by filament winding of carbon fiber/epoxy material. The system takes the evolution of the threat, and new types of defenses into account. The M-51 missile will have multiple warheads. The volume and mass available for the payload (nuclear warheads and pen-aides) are greatly superior to the M4. Range, significantly higher than 5000 km, will among other advantages, extending the patrol area of the submarine fleet.

Le Terrible, the fourth Le Triomphant-class SSBN, was ordered on 28 July 2000 and entered service in 2010. It was the first to carry the first of the new M51 strategic missiles, in a version known as the M51.1.

There are three variants of this missle:
  1. The M51 is a missile with multiple warheads at intercontinental capacity. Performance, superior to the M45 allow long-term sustainability in a changing strategic context, the credibility of the ocean component of deterrence. He eventually equip 4 SSBN Class Triumphant. Weighing in at about 54 tons, and it has a better ability to penetrate opposing defenses and increased nuclear safety. Its accuracy has a stellar resetting capability. The retaining logic for the program leads to an incremental change of the missile to ensure the necessary response and maintenance of industrial skills. The operational implementation of the M51 missile and boarding the first batch of missiles on SSBNs the Terrible was made ??in 2010 by precisely observing the performance, schedule and costs contractually agreed. The first two batches of the new M51 missile version M51.1 is to say with TN75 warheads from the M45, were embarked in 2010 on SSBNs the Terrible and, in summer 2013, on Vigilant, following its adaptation.
  2. The M51 missile is available in two versions M51.1 and M51.2. Plans called for, starting in 2015, progressively replacing M51.1 missiles with a new variant, the M51.2, to be equipped with new TNO Tête Nucléaire Océanique [Head Nuclear Oceanic] warhead, with a yield of 100 Kt. The new TNO is the first fully conceived without full-scale test, only by means of simulation. The M51.2 will have an intercontintental range. As directed by the Minister of Defence, and in the broader context of respect for the constraints of the defense budget aimed at fiscal consolidation, the aggregate 'Deterrence' budget was reduced by almost two billion euros compared to what was envisaged in 2008. this was done by spreading some programs, for example by shifting a year admission to service M51.2 program, or more milestones for simulation program, but without undermining the principles as they were set by the president. The test of an M51.2 from the submarine Le Vigilant. failed 05 May 2013 This shot was to qualify the pair formed by the M51 and the nuclear submarine launcher gear (SSBNs). The missile had "erratic operation at launch before they get in and destroy self-security after thirty seconds of flight, "said the Delegate General for armaments, Laurent Collet-Billon, at a hearing at the national Assembly in early May 2013. The company identified the human resources to analyze quickly the technical origin of the failure of the previous test, without consequences for contribution to the posture of deterrence or space activity. This demonstrates a base of expertise at the service of deterrence. The costs associated with this event was funded by a program spread.
  3. The work on the third version (M51.3) were launched in 2014. The M51.3 is designed to maintain the capabilities of the ocean component facing the most severe missile defenses, which will enter service in the middle of the next decade [eg, about 2025] when the M51.1 ends it service life. The M51.3 program is a development of a new third stage of the M51 missile (M51.3) for commissioning after 2020, the current stage having continued from the previous generation M45. It will offer on the operational plan for increased performance. According to General de Villers, the M51.3 missile, "which aims to maintain the capabilities of our ocean component facing the most severe missile defenses, will enter service in the middle of the next decade when the M51.1 arrives in late life." The M51.3 should be notified quickly and provide for studies expenses spread over the next ten years [201-2025], in line with the available budget. A development schematically in two phases, the first on the original design by system engineers working on the simulation and specifications of the system and subsystem. It is completed by M51.3 and could begin to Ariane 6 in the coming years. A second more concrete phase is devoted to the detailing, the design of parts, prototypes, testing, intervention equipment; by 2014 Astrium SAS was in this stage for Ariane 5 ME for two or three years and would start from 2016 to M51.3. Without Ariane 5 ME, this phase had no place and design engineers and those of suppliers disappear and can not work on the M51.3 since the upstream phase of the development will not be held. Ariane 5 ME is also necessary to maintain the market Ariane 5 and its production facilities in 2018-2025 horizon, as shown by market studies.

On Wednesday 30 September 2015 at 10h28, the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) carried out a flight test of the M51 strategic ballistic missile from the DGA Missile Testing centre in Biscarrosse (South-West Coast of France). This firing falls in line with the development of the M51 new version that is one of the objectives of the 2014-2019 Military Planning Law (Loi de programmation militaire - LPM). This test proceeded in accordance with the schedule and was performed, as usually, without any nuclear warhead. The missile was followed during all its flight by the assets of DGA Missile Testing centre, including the Mongetest and measurement ship (Bâtiment d’essais et de mesures). Its falling point was located in the North Atlantic at several hundred kilometers from any coast.

The M51 missile equips today two of the four new generation French nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SNLE-NG). The shift of the whole strategic oceanic force to this armament is planned before the end of the decade. The Ministry of Defence congratulated the DGA and industry teams as well as the three armies and Gendarmerie units that contributed to the success of this development firing.

Comparison of the M4 SLBM with the M45 and the M51 SLBMs

Prime contractor EADS (formerly Aérospatiale, Space and Strategic Systems Division, Les Mureaux)
VersionM-5 M-51
Length 12.0 m 12.0m
Body diameter 2.3 m 2.3 m
Launch weight 48000 kg 53,000 kg
Payload 6-10 MIRV
Warhead Nuclear 100 kT each
Guidance Inertial Inertial
Propulsion 3 stage solid 3 stage solid
Range 11,000 km 6,000 km
Accuracy n/k n/k

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