Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
9 November 2006
Parent System: M51
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): 2014
Maiden Flight: 9 November 2006
Total Production: 96
Total Cost: USD$4.0 billion
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Description: The M51 is an intercontinental, submarine launched, ballistic missile designed to replace current M45 SLBMs onboard Le Triomphant-class strategic submarines. The new missile will feature up to 14 MIRV warheads with improved decoys and countermeasures. The new M51 warhead could also be maneuverable (MARV-concept) in order to avoid potential ballistic defenses. According to the French government plans, the M51 will be deployed within the French Navy strategic submarines fleet by 2010. The new missile will feature a considerable number of improvements compared to M45. Overall, M51 will have a range in excess of 6,000 kilometers, higher accuracy and weigh around 50 tons, which represents a mass increase of 50% over M45.
On December 23, 2004, DGA on behalf of the French Navy signed a 3 billion Euro procurement contract with EADS Space Transportation and G2P (Snecma+SNPE). The contract included firm order missiles and several options on further missiles over a 10-year period. It was anticipated that current TN75 nuclear warheads deployed on the M45 and planned for the M51 will replaced by a new one from 2015. The French Navy plans called for the deployment of the M51 ballistic missile beginning in 2010 onboard Le Terrible, and followed by Le Vigilant, Le Triomphant and Le Téméraire after retrofit. These plans have been delayed several years (4-5) due to slow development and testing of the M51 ballistic missile.
The first test launch of an M51 ballistic missile was successfully carried out at Centre d'essais de lancement de missiles (CELM) in Biscarosse, France, on November 9, 2006. The sixth missile test carried out on May 5, 2013, ended in failure. The missile entered service with the French Navy in 2014. In 2018 all the French SSBNs will be equipped with the M51 missile.
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