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WEAPONS

French ballistic missile self-destructs during test

A French M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile has self-destructed during testing off the coast of Brittany. The incident marks a rare failure for such a missile, estimated to cost around €120 million.

French ballistic missile self-destructs during test
A ballistic missile self-destructed after being tested from The Vigilant, a French strategic submarine (pictured here in 2007), in Brittany, France on May 5th. Photo: François Mori/AFP

"It was a failure, the reasons will be determined by an investigation," said Lieutenant Commander Lionel Delort, a spokesman for the Atlantic Naval Prefecture.

He said the missile "self-destructed during its first propulsion phase… for an unknown reason."

The missile was test fired, without a nuclear warhead, from the Vigilant  a strategic nuclear submarine  from the Bay of Audierne at 8.30 am French time on Sunday, and had been due to go down in the isolated north Atlantic.

The defence ministry said in a statement that it "was destroyed shortly after launch, over the ocean," without providing further details.

Delort said the area had been cleared of vessels and aircraft prior to the launch and that debris from the missile  which fell about 25 km from the coast  would be collected for analysis.   

The M51, which has a range of 8,000 km, was put into operation in 2010 following five successful test launches. French TV TF1 estimated the cost of the missile to be €120 million, over a 30-year life span.

Witnesses told AFP they heard a loud explosion and saw trails of smoke when the missile test failed.

"We saw flashes in the sky, I thought it was a plane exploding," Claude Jean, a resident of Cap Sizun on the northern end of the bay, told AFP.

France is estimated to have a stockpile of about 300 nuclear warheads, the majority of them designed for launching from its four Triomphant-class submarines. The remainder are designed for delivery from both land- and carrier-based aircraft.

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MILITARY

France vows to stay in Syria even after US leaves

France will maintain its participation in the coalition fighting Islamic State forces in Syria, government officials said Thursday after President Donald Trump surprised Washington's allies by ordering US troops home.

France vows to stay in Syria even after US leaves
Photo: AFP
“For now of course we remain in Syria,” France's European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said on CNews television, adding “the fight against terrorism is not over.”
   
“It's true that the coalition has made significant progress in Syria, but this fight continues, and we will continue it,” she said.
   
France has stationed fighter jets in Jordan and artillery along the Syrian border in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition, as well as an undisclosed number of special forces on the ground.
 
On Wednesday Trump said in a Twitter video that “We've won against ISIS,” another acronym for the Islamic State group, and that it was time to bring the roughly 2,000 US soldiers fighting the jihadists home.
   
It was a stunning reversal of a US policy which had vowed its support for Kurdish allies who have been key fighters against IS forces in Syria.
 
Its allies have warned that despite losing most of the territory it once controlled during the bloody Syrian civil war, the IS threat has not been totally eradicated.
   
French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Twitter Thursday that the group “has not been wiped of the map, nor have its roots.”
 
“We must definitively defeat the last pockets of this terrorist organisation,” she said.
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