Sunday 25 April 2021

An upcoming French ICBM/SLBM test [UPDATED TWICE]

click map to enlarge

UPDATE (see end of post for more info): the test happened and it was an M51 SLBM

Navigational Warnings HYDROLANT 1140/21 and NAVAREA IV 337/21 which appeared today suggest that France will be test-firing some sort of ICBM or SLBM over the northern Atlantic between April 28 and May 21. 

As indicated by the position of area A, the launch will be from from DGA Essais de Missiles, a missile base of the French Military on the coast of the Gulf of Biscaye, some 70 km southwest of Bordeaux. The target area appears to be north of  Bermuda, some 5500 km from the launch site.

250005Z APR 21
HYDROLANT 1140/21(and NAVAREA IV 337/21)
   A. 45-30.00N 006-39.00W, 44-35.00N 001-28.00W,
      44-26.00N 001-16.00W, 44-18.00N 001-17.00W,
      44-14.00N 001-36.00W, 45-08.00N 006-45.00W.
   B. 47-33.00N 019-01.00W, 47-21.00N 015-35.00W,
      45-29.00N 015-33.00W, 45-41.00N 019-12.00W.
   C. 35-50.00N 070-08.00W, 35-50.00N 063-38.00W,
      34-15.00N 063-38.00W, 34-15.00N 070-08.00W.
   D. 46-38.12N 039-31.05W, 45-37.02N 039-15.53W,
      45-53.52N 036-47.10W, 46-54.92N 036-59.92W.
3. CANCEL THIS MSG 211100Z MAY 21.

I have mapped  the four hazard areas from the Navigational Warning in the map in top of this post. Areas A, B and D are along a simple ballistic trajectory. Area C, the target area north of Bermuda, is not (as can be clearly seen), so either the post-boost vehicle or the dummy MIRV's fired from it will take a different course at some point. 

Note that the dog-leg which I have drawn in the map is very hypothetical and not very realistic: its purpose just is to show that the target area deviates from the initial missile trajectory. [added note: it is much more likely that the trajectory changed is effected much earlier in the  sequence]

Depending on the time of, and weather conditions during, this test launch, it might generate some UFO reports from the southwest French and northern Spanish coast.

As far as I am aware of, the French only have SLBM's in operational service at this moment. Their landbased ICBM's were mothballed in 1996. 

So the launch might be a (land-based) launch of an M51 SLBM. The ground range and size of the areas A,B and D with respect to to the launch site are similar to those of another recent French SLBM test, fired from a submarine in front of the Breton coast on June 12, 2020 (I wrote about that test here).

Click to enlarge


I spoke with Joseph Trevithick for this article in The Drive which also has insights from several other experts.

What I did not know, but learned from the article, is that the DGA Essais de Missiles has a pool with a submerged launch platform, so they can simulate SLBM launches from a submarine. So if it is another M51 test, this makes the choice of the launch site less odd.

Here is some footage from an earlier SLBM test from this submerged platform at DGA Essais de Missiles:

(28 April 2021)

The French Ministry of Defense has announced that a successful test with an M51 SLBM was indeed conducted from DGA Essais de Missiles in the morning of 28 April. Bulletin (in French) here.

In the hours around the test, French and US military monitoring planes were in the air near the target area north of Bermuda:


The twitter account of the French Direction générale de l'armement published this video of the launch:


The image below, which is from the bulletin put out by the French Ministry of Defense, may or may not show the actual missile fired:

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