French Navy Conducts Test Launch of M51 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile from Le Téméraire SSBN

French Navy conducted a test launch of its M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from its nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), Le Téméraire (S617).

The launch was conducted from Audierne bay off the coast of Audierne, Finistère on June 12 and was coordinated by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA) and other industry partners.

The missile was followed throughout its flight phase by radars including the ones on board the French Navy missile range instrumentation ship (BEM) Monge (A601). The impact zone was located in the North Atlantic several hundred kilometers from any coast.

“This test was carried out without nuclear charge and in strict compliance with France’s international commitments. This shot validates the operational capacity of the SNLE Le Téméraire’s global weapon system and once again demonstrates the excellence of high technology that French industries are implementing in this field”, said a Ministy of the Armed Forces statement.


The M51 missile, built by ArianeGroup, is now fitted to all nuclear-powered missile submarines in French Navy service. The missile entered service in 2010.

The new missile replaces the M45 SLBM (In French terminology the MSBS – Mer-Sol-Balistique-Stratégique “Sea-ground-Strategic ballistic”).

The three stage solid-fuel missile has an operational range of 8,000–10,000 km. Each M51 missile carries six to ten independently targetable TN 75 110 kiloton (kt) thermonuclear warheads.

M51 SLBM Launch
File image of launch of French Navy M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

French submarine Le Téméraire (S617)

Le Téméraire is a Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarine of the French Navy. The boat was launched in January 1998, and commissioned in December 1999, six months behind schedule. The boat had, in May 1999, successfully test launched an M45 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The Triomphant class is a class of four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines operated by the French Navy, the last of which entered service in  2010.

The boats replaced all of the older Redoutable-class boats, with the last of those six boats being decommissioned in 2008. Each of these new submarines can carry 16 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The SSBNs are called SNLE in French parlance which stands form Sous-Marin Nucléaire Lanceur d’Engins (Device-Launching Nuclear Submarine). The Triomphant-class SSBNs are called SNLE-NG (SNLE Nouvelle Génération, “Next Generation”).

The French Navy SSBNs provide the ocean-based component (the Force océanique stratégique) of France’s nuclear deterrent strike force, the Force de Frappe. Their home port is Île Longue, Roadstead of Brest, Western Brittany.

French Navy Le Triomphant-class SSBN
Le Triomphant-class, second generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) of the French Navy.

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