Thales (France) is building key components for French submarine launched nuclear missiles. 

Company profile

Thales, based in France, provides information systems for the military and security, aerospace and transportation markets.[1]

In the financial year ending 31 December 2016, Thales generated revenues of € 14.9 billion, resulting in an operating income of € 1.4 billion and a net income of € 946.4 million.[2]

Contact Information

Contact Information

Twitter: @ThalesGroup

Thales Corporate Communications
Tour Carpe Diem
31 Place des Corolles – CS 20001
+33 (0)

Nuclear weapons

Thales, together with Airbus (formerly EADS), Safran, SNPE (part of Safran-subsidiary Herakles) and DCNS, obtained a ten-year contract in December 2004 to build the new M51 nuclear missile for the new French submarines, with an estimated value of € 3 billion. In June 2017 DCNS changed its name to Naval Group.[3] Airbus subsidiary Astrium is the lead contractor, whereas Safran, SNPE, Naval Group and Thales are the main subcontractors.[4] Thales holds a 35%-stake in Naval Group, making it the second largest shareholder after the French government (62.5%).[5]

The M51 features multiple warheads, with far greater payload mass and volume, than the M45. It also offers a longer range, enabling submarines to expand their patrol zones. The first nuclear submarine to be equipped with the M51 was Le Terrible in 2010, followed by the other new-generation submarines, Le Vigilant, delivered in 2013, Triomphant, delivered in 2015, and Le Téméraire, for which the overhaul started in 2016.[6] The overhaul will take 18 months and is carried out by Naval Group (formerly DCNS), with the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and the Fleet Support Service (SSF).[7] Airbus is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the M45 and M51 missiles, in a joint venture with Safran, named ArianeGroup.[8]

Naval Group is significantly involved in the modernization of the nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the French Navy to fit the latest standard nuclear missile M51.3, which is being developed by Airbus.[9]




The following financial institutions made approximately US$ 5,269 million available to this producer from January 2013 through October 2017.

  • ANZ (Australia)
  • Barclays (United Kingdom)
  • BlackRock (United States)
  • BNP Paribas (France)
  • BPCE Group (France)
  • Commerzbank (Germany)
  • Covéa (France)
  • Crédit Agricole (France)
  • Crédit Mutuel CIC Group (France)
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany)
  • HSBC (United Kingdom)
  • Invesco (United Kingdom)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (Japan)
  • National Bank of Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
  • Norges Bank (Norway)
  • Royal Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom)
  • Santander (Spain)
  • Société Générale (France)
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Financial (Japan)
  • Thales SA Employees Stock Ownership Plan (France)
  • UBS (Switzerland)
  • UniCredit (Italy)
  • Vanguard (United States)



[1]     Thales, “At a glance”, Website Thales (, viewed August 2017.

[2]     Thales, “Thales Registration document – Annual financial report 2016”, Thales, March 2017.

[3]     Naval Group, “DCNS CHANGES ITS NAME TO NAVAL GROUP”, Website of Naval Group (, viewed in August 2017.

[4]     Thales, “Thales Registration document – Annual financial report 2013”, Thales, February 2014;
EADS, “Press release: Contract for Production of the M51 Weapon System”, Website Airbus Group (, 23 December 2004.

[5]     Naval Group, “Governance”, Website NavalDCNS Group (, viewed August 2017.

[6]     Marine Nationale, “Modernisation de la force océanique stratégique : le SNLE Le Triomphant adapté au M51”, Website Ministère de la Défense, 13 August 2015 (, viewed June 2016August 2017;
Gautier, J., Pintat, X. & Reiner, D., “Projet de loi de finances pour 2015 : Défense : équipement des forces”, Sénat (France), 20 November 2014 (

[7]     Naval Today, “French Navy’s final nuclear submarine starts 18-month overhaul”, Website Naval Today, 12 December 2016, (, viewed July 2017; Marine Nationale, “Adaptation au M51 des SNLE”, Website Ministère de la Défense, 6 January 2017, (, viewed in July 2017.

[8]     Airbus Group, “2014 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report”, Airbus Group, May 2015; Defense News, ”Airbus and Safran Agree to Space Launcher Joint Venture”, Website Defense News, 10 May 2016 (, viewed in July 2017; Sud Ouest, “Gilles Fonblanc pilote le décollage d’ArianeGroup en Aquitaine (Gilles Fonblanc leads ArianeGroup take-off in Aquitaine)”, Website Sud Ouest, 3 July 2017 (, viewed in July 2017.

[9]     Cabirol, M., “Le classement des entreprises qui ont profité des milliards de la défense en 2014”, Website La Tribune, 10 February 2015 (;
Airbus Defence & Space, “29 aircraft and 14 satellites ordered – A historic year for space activities with Ariane 6 up and running and the creation of Airbus Safran Launchers”, News release Airbus Defence & Space, 21 January 2015 (;               Naval Group, “DCNS STARTS THE LAST ADAPTATION PROGRAMME ON THE FRENCH SSBNS FOR THE M51 MISSILE”, Website Naval Group, 9 December 2016 (

“After preparation operations on Île Longue, the M51 / ROH adaptation work starts at dock 8 of the naval base in Brest. For the next 18 months, DCNS teams will be carrying out the adaptation work for the M51 ballistic missile and the extensive refit maintenance operations involved in the major technical shutdown.

Involving nothing but superlatives (140 km of cable to be fed through, 60 tons of engine seatings to be welded, 1.3 million parts to be supplied), the ROH and adaptation operation for the M51 missile is being supervised by DCNS with the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and the Fleet Support Service (SSF) as joint client. The objective is to carry out the third and final ROH / adaptation programme after those on Le Vigilant and Le TriomphantLe Terrible, the latest in the series of new-generation of SSBNs has been equipped with the M51 missile from the outset.

In addition to the complete maintenance programme, carried out every 9 years on this class of submarine, and the adaptation to accommodate the new M51 missile, the navigation and combat systems will be upgraded. Because of their size (138 metres long, 12,500 tons), onboard technologies at the cutting edge of scientific progress, and the constraints relating to their use in operations, these submarines are among the most complex systems produced in the world.“

This page was last updated 29 January 2018.


Top 20 Producers

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In some nuclear-armed states – in particular the United States, the United Kingdom and France – private companies are hired by governments to carry out work on maintaining and modernising nuclear arsenals.

This report looks at the top 20 companies that are providing the necessary components to develop, test, maintain and modernise nuclear weapons.The contracts these companies have with nuclear armed countries are for materials and services to keep nuclear weapons in their arsenals. The companies described are substantially involved in the nuclear weapons programmes of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, or India and are themselves based in France, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. More information on other companies involved in nuclear arsenals, not listed in the top 20, can be found here.

In other nuclear-armed countries –Russia, China, Pakistan and North Korea – the maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces is carried out primarily or exclusively by government agencies.


The nuclear weapon producers identified were selected on the basis of a predetermined set of criteria.
– Information on investments is publicly available.
– The company is directly involved in the development, testing, production, maintenance or trade of nuclear weapons related technology, parts, products or services.
– The company’s involvement is related to warheads, or to delivery systems such as missiles, that are specifically developed for nuclear tasks. This includes technology that is designed for ‘dual use’ (military and civilian) but excludes technology that is not designed for, but can be used in nuclear warfare. It does not include delivery platforms such as bombers and submarines.

State owned or controlled nuclear industries are outside the scope of this research, as are companies not publicly listed. Our research uncovered a number of Universities involved in nuclear weapons programmes, but these are also outside the scope of the report.

The list of nuclear weapon producers investigated was compiled through a wide variety of sources, including financial institution exclusion lists, civil society reports, media reports, etc. Additional details on the contracts and components is on the website.
We welcome information at any time about possible nuclear weapon producing companies to investigate.