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A New Professional Army for France

A New Professional Army for France

Deterrence, from one era to another (Part 6)

"We must make the most of the respite offered by the present strategic situation in order to rethink our nuclear stand"... : Jacques Chirac, 23rd February 1996.

The final campaign of nuclear tests, which is now complete, will enable us to ensure the reliability and the credibility of our means of deterrence, our capacity to renew the latter without further tests and the transition to simulation.

The change in threats enables us to reduce our nuclear stand. However we shall maintain a credible force of deterrence, adapted to the adequacy threshold defined by the President of the Republic of France and based, in the future, on two complementary, modernised weapons, capable of jointly meeting all political and military situations requiring the use of deterrence :

  • a submarine-carried ballistic weapon, characterised by its low vulnerability and its power ;
  • the strategic oceanic force will be based on four nuclear-powered ballistic-missile armed submarines (SNLE), enabling if required, the permanent maintenance of 2 SNLE at sea ; over the next fifteen years, the MS I missile will progressively replace the present M45 missile.
  • an airborne weapon, built around aerobic missiles which will confer the versatility and diversification of penetration methods indispensable to our force of deterrence in the XXIst century; it is for this reason that the aircraft / missile group will be modernised, the Rafale aircraft disposing of a new mid-range air-surface missile, called the improved ASMP.
  • The Plateau d'Albion surface weapon system is to be rapidly withdrawn from service.
  • The final withdrawal of the HADES surface to surface missile system, which is no longer a necessity and which is a matter of concern for certain neighbouring countries and allies, has been decided upon following a discussion with Chancellor Kohl.
  • The closure of the Pacific Test Centre is now possible with the completion of our tests and our adhesion to the South Pacific Denuclearisation Treaty. These measures are linked to the conclusion of the treaty concerning the total prohibition of nuclear testing (CTBT), to which France is actively contributing.
  • The atomic plants in Pierrelatte and Marcoule producing fissile materials are to be closed, due to the reduction in requirements, the level of stocks and our ability to recycle dismantled weapon materials.

"This ambitious programme aimed at adapting and modernising our deterrent is the proof of France's determination to continue to ensure our ultimate security in all circumstances. France's nuclear strategy is both deterrent and defensive. Any assailant that may want to affect our vital interests is to remain certain of our ability and our determination to protect them"… Jacques Chirac, 23rd February 1996.

Sources: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence

French Embassies in London and Washington.

For more information, go to French National Defense.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).