Nuclear deterrence: successful test firing of the brand new M51.3 missile

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On November 18, the DGA fired the M51.3 missile for the very first time. This is the latest version of the strategic ballistic sea-ground missile, developed by ArianeGroup. Once the tests are completed, it will equip the four nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the French Navy in order to ensure the nuclear deterrence missions of the Strategic Oceanic Force.

Test firing of the M51.3

Last November 18, in the early evening, the sky in the Landes suddenly lit up. It was not a meteorite but rather a new missile test from the Biscarosse launch pad (Landes, France). The Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) fired an M51.3 strategic ballistic missile from its missile test site. As specified in a Press release from the DGA, this qualification shot represents an important development for the Strategic Ocean Force (FOST) because it will make it possible to perpetuate the strategic projection capabilities of the FOST with a modern strategic ballistic sea-ground missile (MSBS).

The missile obviously did not carry a nuclear warhead. However, it is very likely that objects representing the mass of the warheads were carried in order to ensure firing as close as possible to real conditions. The missile was followed throughout its flight by:

  • Hourtin station
  • Quimper station
  • the Monge test and measurement vessel, deployed in the Atlantic Ocean

Deterrence secrecy requires, very little information is available on this missile. Its total mass is more than 50 tonnes for a height of 12 meters. No date of entry into service is yet available but it should arrive in the coming years. However, we will still have to wait for a test firing from one of the four SSBNs, in order to definitively confirm the capabilities of this missile. Note that the French Navy, through the Nuclear Naval Air Force (FaNu), also has improved medium-range air-to-ground missiles (ASMP-A), fired from the Rafale M combat aircraft of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. These same ASMP-A missiles are also used by the Strategic Air Forces (FAS) and their Rafale combat aircraft.

John Walker Avatar