France Test Launches Sea-Based Strategic Missile
France has conducted a successful test launch of its new M51 ballistic missile, which will be used on its nuclear submarines, the defense minister said Thursday. The unarmed missile was launched from the Biscarosse site in the Landes region of southwest France and fell into the North Atlantic off the U.S. coast.
"We conducted a second test of the M51 missile this morning, which was a complete success," Herve Morin said.
The first test of the M51, which is capable of carrying six nuclear warheads and has a range of 8,000 km (5,000 miles), was conducted in November 2006.
The missile will replace the M45 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and will be deployed on new Triomphant-class strategic nuclear submarines starting in 2010.
The minister said the missile test conformed to all of France's international commitments and was part of France's missile program developed to safeguard national sovereignty and its independence.
Commenting on the French missile launch, Russia's Chief of the General Staff, Yury Baluyevsky, said the test was a step in the development of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles, which France has been pursuing since the 1950s.
Baluyevsky said Russia and France planned to discuss in July the test results and the situation around the proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe.