The French military ministry said on Sunday that France has successfully test-fired an M51.3 long-range ballistic missile, strengthening the country’s reputation for nuclear deterrence.
The missile, which lacked a nuclear bomb, was launched from the French army’s missile testing facility at Biscarosse in southwest France and touched down in the North Atlantic “hundreds of kilometres from any coastline,” according to the ministry, without providing any other information.
“The flight has allowed to confirm a major improvement of the missile which will contribute to the lasting credibility of France’s oceanic deterrence in coming decades,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday. It further stated that, in light of the global context, preserving the operational credibility of France’s nuclear weapons is necessary.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently forewarned the West that he would be prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend his country in the wake of Ukraine’s invasion in February 2022.
An improved variant of the M51, a three-stage sea-land strategic ballistic missile intended for launch from French Navy submarines, is the M51.3 missile. In 2006, an M51 was tested from a terrestrial base, and in 2010, the year it was put into service, it was tested from a submarine.
The aerospace company ArianeGroup, a joint venture between Airbus and the French military company Safran, is developing the new M51.3 missile, which is anticipated to go into service around 2025.
Unlike cruise missiles, which often follow straight trajectories at low altitude and are fueled by continuous thrust until they reach their target, ballistic missiles, like rockets, follow elliptic trajectories after launch, frequently exiting the earth’s atmosphere to reach lower space.