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Ships beware: a French ballistic missile could be heading your way

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It must be one of the stranger warnings that the Island’s Maritime Operations Centre has ever had to issue.

Ships, beware, a French inter-continental ballistic missile could be heading your way, stay clear of a large swathe of the Atlantic near Bermuda.

It cannot be a message they have repeated very often, or will repeat very often.

This week the French military tested a 60 ton M51.2 missile, launched from the country's northwest coastline on Wednesday.

The French Ministry of Armed Forces said the missile was not armed with nuclear warheads and that the impact area in the North Atlantic was "several hundred kilometres from any coast."

But the Maritime Operations Centre said they had told mariners to avoid four areas in the North Atlantic between April 28 and May 21 as missile tests were expected to be held.

The nearest edge of the closest testing area is about 138 miles north of Bermuda – inside the island’s exclusive economic zone.

A Maritime Operations Centre spokesman said: “Smaller boats didn’t need to be worried about it, but larger vessels received the warnings by satellite communication.

“The navigational warning just made reference to stay away from the area bases on latitude and longitude.

“The responsibility is still with the military. They still have the responsibility to clear the range before they fire anything.”

The M51.2, the mainstay of the French nuclear deterrent, is usually carried on and launched from the country’s four-strong fleet of ballistic missile nuclear submarines.

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Published April 30, 2021 at 8:13 am (Updated April 30, 2021 at 8:13 am)

Ships beware: a French ballistic missile could be heading your way

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