The launchers sector is quite specific since it requires taking into account both the logic of sovereignty and the logic of business. The creation of ArianeGroup is an illustration of a pragmatic approach whereby the French State and the industry have joined their forces to meet the objectives of national sovereignty and European autonomy by procuring the necessary means needed to face international competition which is becoming evermore fierce.
The geostrategic environment is characterized by the substantial investments of major powers designed to increase their capabilities to act in the space domain and by the recent liberalization of space operations including in particular the players in the new space. Consequently, maintaining our freedom of access to space, which remains strategically tied to our deterrence force's ballistic missile activities, is based on a response sector that is capable of having a competitive launcher and in a position to know the orbital traffic so collision risks can be managed during a launch (i.e., ultimately to ensure an autonomous space activity).
ArianeGroup is a company with a fundamentally dual character, which has inherited of 50 years of continuous development of the ballistic missile programs of the French Strategic Oceanic Force and the European Ariane civil launcher programs. The implementation principles, technologies, competencies and design tools are largely analogous for a ballistic missile and a space launcher. The succession since the 60's of -alternatively- military and civil programs has made it possible to develop and maintain a French industrial sector with a high-level technology and strong added value.
In other words, ensuring a reliable, independent and competitive access to space is a major issue for Europe, for the autonomy of France in terms of strategy, based on the sustainability of French Strategic Ocean Force. In order to meet the immediate challenges of budget constraints and business competition, it is of the utmost importance to be on time and to meet the requirements of the international market by placing the new Ariane 6 European launcher on the market by 2020 and continuing to prepare the future in order to keep our leadership.
This dual industrial model and the alternating development cycles precisely allow to maintain and strengthen the technological and industrial competencies which are key elements for the technical credibility provided to the M51 deterrence weapon system. This system is the result of the involvement of over 6,000 engineers, technicians and artisans dedicated to this complex project. ArianeGroup is a key player in an entire sector which covers, for the deterrence business, more than 900 French manufacturers, among which 140 direct suppliers and 40 prime contractors for subsystems – more than 30% are small to medium size companies and approximately 15% are intermediate size companies.
The M51 program is designed to last over 30 years, and therefore meets the evolution of operational needs based on an incremental approach which was initiated at the beginning of the 2000s and which allows to continuously adapt the M51 weapon system to the current geopolitical context. The French Strategic Oceanic Force (Force Océanique Stratégique) therefore now carries the performances of these two versions on its submarines: the M51.1 version with a military payload derived from the previous M45 weapon system and the M51.2 version, which carries the new longer-range Oceanic Nuclear Warhead (Tête Nucléaire Océanique).
And we are also preparing the future:
Scheduled for around 2025, the aim of M51.3 is to adapt the performance of the missile to the evolution of operational needs by redesigning the third stage of the missile, taking into account the payload capacity necessary for a new military charge and the management of obsolescence. The competitive trend introduced by the Ariane 6 program and an optimum use of dual competencies make these ambitious economical and industrial objectives possible to achieve in the constrained public budget.
We must nevertheless pursue our efforts to continue to master the most advanced technologies from propulsion to equipment and materials, so as to be able to anticipate threats and bring technological innovations to maturity, and also identify a potential technological breakthrough when maturity is reached. This requires ongoing investment in the "upstream study programs" to bring up options and technical solutions so as to timely launch the development of a program – the evolution of the M51.4 weapon – and by doing so, to maintain beyond the 2035 horizon a deterrence adapted to the foreseeable evolutions of threats.
Finally, in a highly unstable geopolitical context, the space environment is no longer fixed and is becoming a decisive factor in the strategy of leading powers. The great space nations (the United States, Russia and China) have decided to prepare new capabilities (hypersonic missiles, high power lasers, exo-atmospheric interceptors, etc.) which one day may give them the necessary means to exercise their power in space. European autonomy requires implementing a national and European space security doctrine that could lead to the design of a European space surveillance architecture. Based on its teams' space expertise and feedback from its Geotracker service clients, ArianeGroup is in a position to contribute its expertise and its technological solutions to support the next space security program that the European Union proposes to fund through the future European Defence fund and the EU SST program.