The French Defense Ministry announced Sunday that the military successfully test-fired an M51.3 long-range ballistic missile. This launch was to demonstrate France’s nuclear deterrence capabilities, according to officials.
The missile did not carry a nuclear warhead and landed far from any coastline in the North Atlantic, the ministry reported. It was launched from southwest France at the army’s Biscarosse missile testing site.
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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year convinced many in Europe of the need to ensure the strength of nuclear arsenals. President Vladimir Putin alarmed several leaders by asserting his willingness to deploy nuclear weapons in defense of the Kremlin.
The Defense Ministry alluded to this, stating that the test maintains operational credibility demanded by international politics.
The upgraded M51.3 missile is expected to be an active part of the French arsenal by 2025. It is a new version of the M51, which is a three-stage ballistic missile developed to be launched from French submarines.
This addition the French defense forces passed its first-ever test. It is believed to offer more range and durability than its nuclear-capable predecessors when facing ballistic missile defense systems.
That is key for new weapons as several countries now deploy anti-ballistic missile shields against such attacks.
Each of the M51 missiles carries from six to ten thermonuclear warheads which may be individually targeted. Commonly known as MIRVs, or Multiple Independently Targeted Reentry Vehicles, these are a staple of first-world militaries.
The upgraded warheads are reportedly maneuverable, a recent advancement to work around defensive systems. Each carries an estimated yield of 150 kilotons of TNT.
The key difference between a ballistic missile and their more traditional counterparts is their resemblance to rockets. They take elliptic trajectories when launched and may elevate to lower space on their way to the target.
Cruise missiles travel in nearly straight lines at low altitudes.
It is imperative that Western nations continue to develop and upgrade their arsenals, both conventional and nuclear. The bipolar world of the Cold War is gone, and while there are multiple threats facing democracies from authoritarian powers, deterrence remains the best defense.