Saturday, 13 June 2020

A French M51 SLBM test with a 6000 km range on June 12

click image to enlarge

On the morning of June 12, 2020, the French Navy test launched an unarmed M51 SLBM from the Triomphant-class submarine Le Téméraire.

The launch was from a spot near the French coast just south of Audierne Bay in Bretagne, not far from the French Naval port of Brest, according to a French Government bulletin. Navigational Warnings place it around 47o.65 N, 4o.15 W. The launch direction was towards the Caribean, with impact in the Atlantic Ocean near 24o.4 N, 66o.1 W according to the same Navigational Warnings.

The locations of the hazard areas from these Navigational Warnings point to a 6000 km flight trajectory (see figures above and below):


HYDROLANT 1882/20

EASTERN NORTH ATLANTIC.
CELTIC SEA.
BAY OF BISCAY.
FRANCE.
DNC 08.
1. MISSILE OPERATIONS 0200Z TO 1100Z DAILY
11 JUN THRU 11 JUL IN AREAS BOUND BY:
A. 47-12N 010-25W, 47-49N 004-31W,
47-39N 004-01W, 47-24N 004-11W,
46-44N 010-17W.
B. 46-17N 019-54W, 46-50N 017-09W,
45-07N 016-29W, 44-35N 019-01W.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 111200Z JUL 20.//

Authority: NAVAREA II 167/20 042002Z JUN 20.

Date: 060713Z JUN 20
Cancel: 11120000 Jul 20



 

NAVAREA IV 485/20

NORTH ATLANTIC.
1. MISSILE OPERATIONS 0200Z TO 1100Z DAILY
11 JUN THRU 11 JUL:
A. IN AREA BOUND BY
39-37N 040-14W, 40-40N 037-48W,
39-41N 037-07W, 38-39N 039-31W.
B. IN AREA WITHIN 92 MILES OF 24-24N 066-06W.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 111200Z JUL 20.//

Authority: AVURNAV BREST 070808Z JUN 20.

Date: 070851Z JUN 20
Cancel: 11120000 Jul 20



I have plotted the Navigational Warnings on the map below. The line shown is a simple STK-modelled ballistic trajectory, which fits these area's well. Assuming a 1200 km apogee, the flight-time should have been around 23 minutes.

Click map to enlarge

The M51 is  the newest French SLBM. It is in service since mid-2010. It has three stages and can carry up to 10 RV's. It's maximum range is said to be near 11 000 km, i.e. comparable to the Trident-II SLBM of the US Navy and Royal British Navy. This is the 5th succesful test of an M51 SLBM (a 6th test attempt in May 2013 ended in failure).

A nice summary of what is known from public sources about this test is provided in this article by Tyler Rogoway on The Drive.


Note added
For those interested in these issues: last year, I did an in-depth analysis of several Trident-II SLBM test launches, including one that was serendipitously photographed by an astrophotographer from the Canary Island. The latter observation allowed to estimate the apogee altitude of that test.

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