The weapon, intended for submarine use, was fired into the North Atlantic
Paris has released footage of the M51.3 long-range ballistic missile being test-fired over the weekend, as part of the ongoing improvements to the French nuclear deterrent.
The M51.3 is the latest iteration of the M51, a three-stage missile designed to be launched from French nuclear submarines. The original missile was first fired from a ground launcher in 2006 and from the sea in 2010.
“First successful test firing of an M51.3 strategic ballistic missile!” French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu wrote on X (formerly Twitter), adding that this “confirms the credibility of our nuclear deterrent and demonstrates the excellence of our launch sector.”
According to the French Defense Ministry, the missile was launched from the Biscarosse testing site in southwest France and landed in the North Atlantic, “hundreds of kilometers from any coastline.” The exact location of the splashdown was not specified. The missile did not carry a warhead.
La DGA a coordonné et de conduit avec succès un tir d’essai de missile M51 sans charge militaire depuis son site de Biscarrosse.
— Direction générale de l'armement (@DGA) November 18, 2023
France’s defense procurement and development agency, the Directorate General of Armament (DGA), said that the test was carried out “in strict compliance” with international commitments and confirmed the “proper functioning” of the missile system, contributing to the eventual approval of the M51.3 version.
The missile is being developed by ArianeGroup, a joint venture between the French military contractor Safran and the multinational conglomerate Airbus.
France has been a nuclear power since 1960, when it tested an independently developed atomic bomb. It is believed to have around 300 operational nuclear warheads, carried primarily by naval and air assets, as all French land-based launchers were decommissioned by 1997.