France test-fires new, unarmed nuclear missile

The new M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile shot over the Atlantic.

dolphin sub 88 (photo credit: )
dolphin sub 88
(photo credit: )
France successfully shot its new M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile over the Atlantic on Thursday for its first experimental test flight, the Defense Ministry said. The missile carried no nuclear weapon for the test flight, which was closely monitored by specialists at a test center in Biscarosse, in southwest France, as well as by the Monge missile-tracking ship, ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau said. The M51 is designed to replace the M45 submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM. The M51 can carry six TN-75 thermonuclear warheads and has a range of up to 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles). Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie "expressed her great satisfaction" at the success of the test, her ministry said in a statement. Alliot-Marie insisted on the "need to conduct tests to verify the performance of future missiles of the strategic ocean forces, and attain an important stage in the adaptation and modernization of our dissuasive force." Greenpeace activist Xavier Renou called the test a violation of France's commitments to nonproliferation and a provocation to the international community. Bureau insisted that the missile test conformed to all of France's international commitments, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The missile is made by EADS Space Transportation in a €3 billion (US$3.8 billion) project.