France test-fires its latest nuclear missile as a warning to Russia

By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

France conducted the first test of its latest M51.3 nuclear missile on Monday in a bid to show its counterstrike capability.

The new missile, which was launched from a submarine in southwest France, can reach speeds of up to Mach 25 (approximately 30,000 kilometers per hour), according to Naval News.

The French Armed Forces Ministry confirmed the operation was a “test run” intended to “validate an important development of the missile that will contribute to perpetuating the credibility of our ocean deterrence in the coming decades.”

“The missile was monitored throughout the flight phase by DGA test resources. The drop zone is located in the North Atlantic, several hundred kilometers from any coastline,” it added in a statement.

The M51 is the new generation of intercontinental missiles that began replacing the M45 in 2010. Each missile carries six to ten TN 75 thermonuclear warheads that can be independently controlled.

The TN 75 is being replaced by the new Tête nucléaire océanique (TNO or oceanic nuclear warheads), which are reported to be maneuverable (MARV or Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicles) to avoid potential ballistic missile defenses.

The TNO has a yield estimated to be greater than or equal to the yield of the TN 75 warhead, 150 kilotons of TNT (10 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb) with a circular error probability (CEP) of 150 meters.

The M51’s advanced three-stage engine served as the basis for the development of the solid-fuel propellant of the European Ariane 5 space rocket. Open-source data indicates an M51 weight of 52,000 kilograms, a length of 12 meters and, a diameter of 2.3 meters.

The operating range of an M51 missile is reported to be 8,000 to 10,000 kilometers at Mach 25.

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