ENSTA Bretagne : systèmes pyrotechniques et propulsion
© Ministere des armées

Michel: Program Manager in the Defense Sector

20 December 2017
Before attending ENSTA Bretagne, Michel attended math and physics preparatory classes at the military lycée in Aix-en-Provence. He then enrolled at ENSTA in the Weapon System Design Engineer program, specializing in pyrotechnics. After his three years in the program, he went on to work for the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA), where he stayed for five years before joining the Ariane Group.
Class of 2006
Program Manager in the Defense Sector

Student life at ENSTA Bretagne

Michel recalls that, along with the technical training he received in his engineering studies, ENSTA opened a window on the world for him.

"I gained a broader perspective because the school was international, and open to science and innovation. I was able to see things from an industrial and civil point of view, which was new to me because I'd come from a military training background."

For his final project, Michel worked with Autoliv Livbag, a company based in Pont-de-Buis in Finistère. "I was interested in the creation and development of a new generation of airbags, which were improved by replacing the gas component with metal."

But this wasn't the career path Michel chose to follow. After graduation, he decided to change direction and work in weapon systems, and more specifically with nuclear weapons. 

A career in defense and weapon systems

His first position was with the DGA as project manager at the Etablissement Principal des Munitions near Brest (formerly known as the Pyrotechnie Saint Nicolas). Over time, he progressed in his role and took on more responsibility.

"I was project manager for NEDEX (Neutralization, Removal and Destruction of Explosives), then I became fire service project manager, managing a team of volunteers and professional Navy firefighters. We were responsible for accident prevention and management. Later, I became production department manager, responsible for overseeing weaponry. I was also in charge of job postings between services, organizing the movements of about sixty people."

Michel then decided to take on a different role, becoming the designer of an implementation system for a new missile version (the M51.2) at the Ile Longue base near Brest.

After five years with the DGA, Michel was hungry for new challenges and decided to move to the Ariane Group as operations manager for the installation of nuclear weapons infrastructure. He then took on responsibility for the TA3 program. "This project was part of a major nuclear deterrent program, and consisted of the third test launch of the M51 intercontinental ballistic missile."

Today, he is program manager at Ile Longue for the dismantling of M45 missiles (strategic French Naval submarine-launched ballistic missiles that are being progressively replaced by other missiles). This role differs from his previous experience:

"I do more than just work on the technical side of things: I’m sometimes involved in managing the financial aspects of a project. As project manager, I'm responsible for providing my clients with the services they expect. This can range from the delivery of actual goods to intellectual services."