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French DGA successfully test-fired M51 SLBM


According to information published by the French Ministry of Armed Forces on April 28, 2021, the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) carried out a flight test of the M51 strategic ballistic missile from the DGA Missile Testing center in Biscarrosse (South-West Coast of France).
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Archive image of French SLBM M51 (Picture source: French Defense Procurement Agency)


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.

The M51 is the new generation of French strategic submarine-launched ballistic missiles, designed to keep pace with changing threats and defences. It entered service at the end of 2010. As for all the ballistic missile systems in France nuclear deterrence force, Astrium is prime contractor for their development, production, deployment and maintenance services on behalf of the French defence procurement agency (DGA) for the French Navy.

The M51 is significantly different to the M45, its currently operational predecessor, in terms of shape, size, weight and even its interface with the submarine launch tubes. It features multiple warheads, with far greater payload mass and volume (including warheads and penetration aids). It also offers longer range than the M4, enabling submarines to expand their patrol zones.

Weighing a total of 50 tonnes (compared to 35 for the M4 missiles) each of its three stages is powered by a solid rocket motor equipped with a flex-bearing nozzle. The first and second stage structures are made of wound carbon-epoxy fibre.

The nuclear submarine Le Terrible has been equipped with the M51 since late 2010. The missile entered operational service on board the other new-generation submarines of the French Strategic Oceanic Force Vigilant, Triomphant and Téméraire.