Safran (France) and Airbus together form ArianeGroup which is in charge of producing the solid rocket motors on the M51, the strategic ballistic missile in France’s nuclear arsenal. The M51 carries multiple warheads and is replacing the M45.

Company profile

Safran, based in France, is a high-tech group with three key business areas: aerospace, defence and security.[1] The French government holds a 14% stake in the company.[2]

In the financial year ending 31 December 2016, Safran reported revenues of € 16.5 billion, resulting in an operating income of € 3.3 billion and a net loss of € 2.0 billion.[3]

Contact information

Contact information

Twitter: @SAFRAN

2, boulevard du Général Martial Valin
CS 51618
75724 Paris Cedex 15
+33 (0)1 40 60 80 80

Nuclear weapons

ArianeGroup, a 50/50 joint company between Airbus and Safran,[4]  is in charge of producing the solid rocket motors on the M51, the strategic ballistic missile in France’s nuclear deterrent force. An MSBS, or submarine-launched ballistic strategic missile, the M51 was deployed on France’s missile-launching nuclear submarines starting in 2010. It carries multiple nuclear warheads, and is gradually replacing the older-generation M45.[5]  This is a continuation implementation of the original estimated € 3 billion ten-year contract received in December 2004.[6]

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.[7] The overhaul will take 18 months and is carried out by Naval Group with the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and the Fleet Support Service (SSF).[8]

Safran’s subsidiary Snecma is the prime contractor for the propulsion system of the M51 missile project, producing all inert components in the rocket motors. Sagem, another subsidiary of Safran, developed the navigation systems for the M51, to improve the accuracy of the missile.[9] SNPE Matériaux Energétiques (SME), a subsidiary of SNPE that was merged into Safran’s subsidiary Herakles together with Snecma Propulsion Solide (SPS) in 2011, made the rocket propellant that powers the nuclear ballistic missile.[10] Airbus is responsible for the ongoing production and maintenance of the M45 and M51 missiles, in a joint venture with Safran, called ArianeGroup.[11]




The following financial institutions made approximately US$ 18,105 million available to this producer from January 2014 through October 2014.

  • Allianz (Germany)
  • Ameriprise Financial (United States)
  • Aviva (United Kingdom)
  • Bank of America (United States)
  • Barclays (United Kingdom)
  • BlackRock (United States)
  • BNP Paribas (France)
  • BPCE Group (France)
  • Capital Group (United States)
  • Citigroup (United States)
  • Commerzbank (Germany)
  • Crédit Agricole (France)
  • Crédit Mutuel CIC Group (France)
  • Davis Selected Advisers (United States)
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany)
  • Groupama (France)
  • Guggenheim Capital (United States)
  • HSBC (United Kingdom)
  • JPMorgan Chase (United States)
  • Legg Mason (United States)
  • Macquarie Group (Australia)
  • MassMutual Financial (United States)

  • MetLife (United States)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (Japan)
  • Modern Woodmen of America (United States)
  • Morgan Stanley (United States)
  • National Life Group (United States)
  • New York Life Insurance (United States)
  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance (United States)
  • Oddo & Cie (France)
  • Pacific Asset Management (United States)
  • Power Financial Corporation (Canada)
  • Principal Financial Group (United States)
  • Royal Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom)
  • Santander (Spain)
  • Société Générale (France)
  • Standard Chartered (United Kingdom)
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Financial (Japan)
  • Sun Life Financial (Canada)
  • TIAA (United States)
  • United Services Automobile Association (United States)
  • Vanguard (United States)
  • Voya Financial (United States)
  • WoodmenLife (United States)





[1]     Safran, “Safran at a glance”, Website Safran (, viewed August 2017.

[2]     Safran, “Essentials 2017”, Website Safran, 6 May 2017 (

[3]     Safran, “Consolidated balance sheet and income statement 2015”, Safran, February 2016.

[4] ArianeGroup, “About us: Company profile”, website ArianeGroup (, viewed January 2018.

[5] Safran, “Missile propulsion”, Website Safran, (, viewed January 2018.

[6]     EADS, “Press release: Contract for Production of the M51 Weapon System”, News release EADS, 23 December 2004 (; Tran, P., “Rocket Rendezvous? France Seeks To Merge Engine, Fuel Suppliers”, Defense News, 28 June 2010 (; Herakles, “Strategic propulsion, a center of excellence at Herakles”, Website Herakles (, viewed June 2016; Herakles, “Specialist in missile propulsion”, Website Herakles (, viewed June 2016.

[7]     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 2016; Gautier, J., Pintat, X. & Reiner, D., “Projet de loi de finances pour 2015 : Défense : équipement des forces”, Sénat (France), 20 November 2014 (

[8]     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.

[9]     Safran Magazine, “M51, the key to French deterrence”, Safran Magazine, November 2007.

[10]    European Commission, “Case No Comp/M.6104 – Safran / SNPE Materiaux Energetiques / Regulus – Notification of 23/02/2011 pursuant to Article 4 of Council Regulation No 139/20041”, European Commision, 30 March 2011; Tran, P., “Rocket Rendezvous? France Seeks To Merge Engine, Fuel Suppliers”, Defense News, 28 June 2010.

[11]    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.

This page was last updated 29 January 2018.

Top 20 Producers

Looking for information on other nuclear weapon associated companies? Check here.

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.