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France test-fires new M51.3 ballistic missile

The DGA conducted the first land-based test-firing of the M51.3 SLBM on 18 November 2023. (DGA)

France's defence procurement agency, Directorate General of Armament (DGA), has successfully test-fired an M51.3 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time.

The test-launch was conducted from the DGA's land-based missile testing site on 18 November in Landes, southwestern France.

Announcing the milestone on the same day, the Ministry of Armed Forces of France said the missile, which was unarmed, was aimed at a location in the northern Atlantic โ€“ several hundred kilometres from any coast. โ€œCarried out without military load and in strict compliance with France's international commitments, this test firing confirms the proper functioning of the missile system and contributes to the qualification of the missile system in its new M51.3 version,โ€ it said.

The test was tracked throughout its flight phase by radars and the French Navy's missile range instrumentation vessel FS Monge (A601).

Designed as a replacement for the M45 SLBM, the M51 started equipping the French Navy's four Le Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) from 2010. The missile was first installed on first-of-class Le Triomphant, which was designed to carry the missile from build. The remaining three vessels, which were originally designed to carry the M45 predecessor, were modified to fire the system during major overhauls in 2010โ€“18.

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