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France Submarine Missing Navy

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French submarine found after 50 years off coast of Toulon

Archive photo of La Minerve,the French military submarine, at the docks of the old Marseilles port in the late 1960s. STF / AFP

A French submarine that disappeared without a trace over 50 years ago with 52 men on board has been found in deep French waters, French Defence Minister Florence Parly announced on social media on Monday.

"We have just found La Minerve, it is a success, a relief and a technical feat," Parly wrote on Twitter. "I'm thinking of the families who have been waiting for this moment for so long."

A research expedition to find the submarine that disappeared in 1968 began after families of the 52 missing appealed to the Defence Ministry in October.

The crew of La Minerve. STF/AFP

The wreckage was found in 2,370-metre-deep water 45 kilometres off the coast of Toulon by the US ship Seabed Constructor.

The ship's private owner, Ocean Infinity, used underwater drones to locate La Minerve.

Ocean Infinity also found the San Juan submarine that sunk off the coast of Argentina in 2017.

The French military submarine sunk in four minutes on 27 January 1968. Despite emergency relief operations carried out immediately – including one led by the celebrated French explorer and inventor Jacques Cousteau in his mini-submarine – La Minerve was never located, until now.

Commander Jacques-Yves Cousteau with his mini-submarine during the search operation for La Minerve off Cape Cépet, 31 January 1968. AFP