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Video: France tests M51 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM)

Unarmed French M51 SLBM launches from the
Photo: DGA

The French armed forces have carried out another test of the M51 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), this time from the “DGA Essais de missiles” test site in Biscarrosse.

The test took place on April 28 and was declared a success by the country’s defense minister Florence Parly.

The unarmed missile was monitored throughout its flight phase by the missile test department of the French arms procurement agency DGA. The missile landed in the North Atlantic, several hundred kilometers from any coast.

First deployed in 2010 as a replacement for the M45 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the M51 is now carried by all four ballistic missile submarines in French Navy service. Each of the submarines carries 16 M51s.

While the missile is in already in service, France carries out regular tests to ensure its reliability. The previous M51 test took place in June 2020, when Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarine FS Le Téméraire launched an M51 without nuclear warheads off Finistère, in western Brittany.

Le Triomphant, Le Téméraire and Le Vigilant carry the M51.1 variant, while the youngest submarine in the class and the latest to receive the refit – Le Terrible – carries the M51.2 variant, which has greater range and an improved ability to penetrate enemy defenses.

M51 weighs 54 tons and has a range of 6,000 kilometers. The service is already working on the next upgrade of the weapon, to be referred to as the M51.3, which is expected to enter service by 2025.