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France flexes its military muscles with nuclear missile test off the coast of Brittany

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The Marine Nationale test launched an M51 ballistic missile from the Triomphant-class nuclear-powered submarine Le Téméraire. Officials said the launch was carried out in operational conditions and described it as a success.

Armed forces minister Florence Parly said: “Le Téméraire successfully fired an M51 strategic ballistic missile off Finistère.

“This trial demonstrates our technological excellence and our attachment to French sovereignty.”

The missile was tracked throughout its flight phase by radars and by the missile range instrumentation ship Monge.

The target zone was located in the North Atlantic hundreds of miles from land.

An armed forces ministry spokesman said: “This test was carried out without nuclear warhead and in strict compliance with France’s international commitments.

“This firing validates the operational capacity of Le Téméraire’s global weapon system and once again demonstrates the high-tech excellence that French industries are implementing in this area.”

The Téméraire is the second ship of a class of four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and but was the last one to be upgraded to M51 missile capability in 2018.

All of France’s nuclear subs are now armed with M51s.

The Le Triomphant-class is a class of four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and replaced the Le Redoutable-class from 1997.

They were commissioned in 1997, 1999, 2004 and 2010.

The subs are fitted with 16 ballistic missile launching tubes for the M51s but also feature conventional weapons such as torpedoes and Exocet anti-ship missiles.

The test launch comes amid serious debate about the potential of an EU army when the continent finally emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron is a major supporter of a combined European defence force and Brussels bosses appear keen to press ahead with controversial €8bn plans despite the looming cash crisis sparked the pandemic.

But the military ambitions have been hit by budget battles and two major defence projects have been earmarked for less funding than they were allocated two years ago.

Officials see boosting defence capability as crucial to the bloc’s ambitions for a greater geopolitical role and have ensured both programmes feature in a revised seven-year budget.

And the budget would still provide them with more cash overall than proposals discussed during protracted talks over the 2018 blueprint.

Under the European Commission’s plan, the new European Defence Fund (EDF), intended to foster cooperation on research and development of military technology and equipment, would receive €8bn.

That figure is a considerable drop on the Commission’s 2018 proposal for the long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which put aside €11.5bn for the fund.

But there is enough in the new plan for some supporters of a greater EU defence role to see silver linings.

One senior EU diplomat said: “Financially it’s not nothing and politically it’s an important signal”.



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