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What are the interesting features of the air component of France's nuclear arsenal

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar May25,2024

What the air component of France's nuclear arsenal has interesting features

France once had the Mirage IV as an analogue of the Tu-22, but the Rafale B under the ASMP-A missile is also interesting

Literally the day before yesterday, that is, on May 23, 2024, there was a report that the French Rafale launched an updated nuclear missile during tests. It was an interesting event, because in this way France directly responded to the exercises on the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which the Kremlin had started.

At the same time, there is a reason to talk about the aviation component of France's nuclear arsenal, since it has its own unexpected moments. Let's start at least with the fact that in the episode mentioned above it was actually about the fact that a specialized Rafale B carrier was involved for this test.

And in the case of the missile, it was essentially about a kind of small-sized analogue of the X- 22, that is, a supersonic ASMPA cruise missile with a launch mass of only 800 kilograms, a flight speed of Mach 2, a nuclear warhead capacity of 300 kilotons and a launch range of up to 500 kilometers.

Further, it is worth detailing that France's nuclear arsenal has only aviation and naval components. At the same time, it is interesting that the navy includes both four nuclear submarines of the Le Triomphant project under 16 ICBMs, as well as 20 specialized Rafale M F3 aircraft, which are deployed as part of the Charles de Gaulle air group and are the carriers of the above-mentioned ASMP/A KR.< /p>

In turn, the specialized Rafale B belongs to the Aviation Strategic Command, there are approximately 20 aircraft of this type in total, divided into two squadrons. 18 refueling aircraft, organized into two squadrons, of which five A330 MRTTs, ten C-135FRs and three KC-135 Stratotankers are also used to support them.

We can also find references to the fact that The French Air Force had at its disposal a certain number of Mirage 200N tactical nuclear weapons carriers, the last of which was decommissioned in early February 2022.

Next, it is worth mentioning such an interesting historical fact – until 1996, France had its Mirage IV supersonic strategic bombers in service, which can be called an analogue of the Tu-22 or Tu-22M3 (according to the niche of tasks they performed, and also according to the period of operation).

Serial production of these bombers took place during 1963-1968, a total of 66 units were produced, of which 18 were converted into the Mirage IVP version, which could be a carrier of ASMP supersonic cruise missiles (launch range up to 300 kilometers), and the rest of the aircraft were assigned for the role of carriers of free-falling atomic bombs of the AN11 and AN22 types.

Already in the mid-1980s, the French military believed that the Mirage IV had ceased to be an effective means of nuclear deterrence against the USSR, and that this function should be completely transferred to nuclear ICBM-carrying submarines. The length of service of the Mirage IV also played a role, which determined the decision to decommission these bombers in 1995 as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

Five aircraft of this type were used as scouts until 2005, and were also written off after that.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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