Strategic Weapons: France Gets It Up


November 19,2008: After over a decade of development, and delays, France had a successful underwater test of its new M51 SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile). In this case, the missile was fired from an underwater container similar to the silo on a submarine. M51s weigh 56 tons each, carry six warheads and have a range of 10,000 kilometers. They replace the M45 (weighing 35 tons each, carrying six warheads and with a range of 6,000 kilometers). The M51 should be ready for service in two years.

Earlier this year, France launched the fourth (and last) of its new Triomphant class SSBNs (ballistic missile nuclear submarines), the "Le Terrible". This boat will enter service in two years. The Triomphant class boats displace 12,600 tons, have a crew of 101 and carry 16 M51 missiles. The other three Triomphants, already in service, carry the older M45 missile. These boats will get the M51 after the "Le Terrible" enters service. The Triomphants replace the six SSBNs of the Redoutable class, 9,000 ton boats that entered service in 1971 and were retired in 1991. Each of these boats carried sixteen of the shorter range (5,000 kilometers) M4 missiles.



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