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Contents

SIPRI Yearbook 2011

SIPRI Yearbook 2011

V. French nuclear forces

Chapter:
7. World nuclear forces
Source:
SIPRI Yearbook 2011
Author(s):
Shannon N. Kile, Vitaly Fedchenko, Bharath Gopalaswamy, Hans M. Kristensen

France’s nuclear forces consist of aircraft and SSBNs, carrying a total of about 300 warheads (see table 7.5). A 2008 white paper on defence and national security included important clarifications concerning French nuclear forces. France will continue to rely on the ‘principle of strict sufficiency’ (corresponding to a ‘minimum deterrence’ policy) as a guarantor of its security and the ‘operational credibility’ of the French nuclear arsenal, which relies on ‘permanent submarine patrols and airborne capability’.77

In September 2010 the new Triomphant Class SSBN, Le Terrible, entered service, joining a fleet of three previously commissioned SSBNs of the same class—Le Triomphant, Le Téméraire and Le Vigilant.78 Le Terrible is equipped with 16 M51.1 SLBMs. The M51.1 is a three-stage, solid-fuelled missile with an estimated maximum range of 6000–8000 kilometres that can carry up to six TN-75 warheads. Before entering service, Le Terrible successfully test-launched the M51.1 SLBM on 27 January and 10 July 2010. The other three Triomphant Class SSBNs will be rearmed with the M51.1 by 2017.79 The upgrade of Le Vigilant began in July 2010.80 An improved version of the M51.1, the M51.2, is designed to carry the new Tête Nucléaire Océanique (TNO, oceanic nuclear warhead) and will replace the M51.1 after 2015.81

By the end of 2010 the aircraft component of the French nuclear forces consisted of two land- and one sea-based nuclear-capable aircraft squadrons, comprised of Mirage and Rafale combat aircraft.82 The Mirage 2000N aircraft of the 3/4 Limousin Fighter Squadron will be replaced by Rafales in 2018. The aircraft can carry either the Air–Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMP, medium-range air-to-surface) or the ASMP-Améliorée (ASMP-A) missile. A total of 90 ASMP missiles were produced, along with 80 TN-81 300-kt warheads for them. The follow-on cruise missile ASMP-A is currently being introduced to all three squadrons. The ASMP-A missiles carry the Tête Nucléaire Aeroportée (TNA, airborne nuclear warhead), which is a new thermonuclear warhead that is reported to have a selectable yield of 20 kt, 90 kt and 300 kt.83 The delivery of the remaining ASMP-A missiles and the retirement of the ASMP will be completed in 2011.84

France remains committed to sustaining its nuclear weapon complex, including research and development capabilities. In 2010 it signed an agreement with the UK for technical cooperation and the exchange of classified information in the areas of nuclear weapon safety and security and stockpile certification (see section IV above).

Notes:

(77) French Government, Défense et sécurité nationale: Le livre blanc [Defence and national security: the white paper] (Odile Jacob: Paris, June 2008). English translation: French Government, The French White Paper on Defence and National Security (Odile Jacob: New York, 2008), pp. 161–63.

(78) French Navy, ‘Le Terrible livré à la marine’ [Le Terrible delivered to the navy], Press release, 4 Oct. 2010, <http://www.defense.gouv.fr/marine/actu-marine/le-terrible-livre-a-la-marine>.

(79) Richardson, D., ‘France tests M51 SLBM under operational conditions’, Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, vol. 14, no. 9 (Sep. 2010), p. 6; and Richardson, D., ‘M51 SLBM performs fourth test-flight’, Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, vol. 14, no. 3 (Mar. 2010), p. 3.

(80) French Senate, Avis présenté au nom de la commission des affaires étrangères, de la défense et des forces armées (1) sur le projet de loi de finances pour 2011, vol. 5, Défense: Equipement des forces [Opinions submitted on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces (1) on the finance bill for 2011, vol. 5, Defence: Equipping the forces], no. 112 (French Senate: Paris, 18 Nov. 2010), chapter 1, section II.

(81) Lennox (note 34), p. 47.

(82) French Senate, Avis présenté au nom de la commission des affaires étrangères, de la défense et des forces armées (1) sur le projet de loi de finances pour 2010, vol. 5, Défense: Equipement des forces [Opinions submitted on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces (1) on the finance bill for 2010, vol. 5, Defence: Equipping the forces], no. 102 (French Senate: Paris, 19 Nov. 2009), chapter 2, section I.C; French Senate (note 80); and French Air Force, ‘Mise en service opérationelle: Rafale/ASMP-A’ [Operational implementation: Rafale/ASMP-A], Press release, 13 July 2010, <http://www.defense.gouv.fr/air/actus-air/rafale-asmp-a>.

(83) Lennox (note 34), p. 44.

(84) French Senate (note 80), chapter 2, section I.C.

Citation (MLA):
Kile, Shannon N., Vitaly Fedchenko, Bharath Gopalaswamy, and Hans M. Kristensen. "7. World nuclear forces." SIPRI Yearbook. SIPRI. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2016. Web. 11 May. 2021. <https://www.sipriyearbook.org/view/9780199695522/sipri-9780199695522-div1-78.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Kile, S., Fedchenko, V., Gopalaswamy, B., & Kristensen, H. (2016). 7. World nuclear forces. In SIPRI, SIPRI Yearbook 2011: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 11 May. 2021, from https://www.sipriyearbook.org/view/9780199695522/sipri-9780199695522-div1-78.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Kile, Shannon N., Vitaly Fedchenko, Bharath Gopalaswamy, and Hans M. Kristensen. "7. World nuclear forces." In SIPRI Yearbook 2011: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, SIPRI. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Retrieved 11 May. 2021, from https://www.sipriyearbook.org/view/9780199695522/sipri-9780199695522-div1-78.xml