Home Defense France tests nuclear capable  Asmpa-R supersonic nuclear missile from a Rafale Fighter...

France tests nuclear capable  Asmpa-R supersonic nuclear missile from a Rafale Fighter Aircraft

France has conducted the first test of an upgraded missile with nuclear capability designed to be launched from a Rafale fighter jet. This was announced by Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu, who specified in a statement that the Asmpa-R missile was launched without a warhead from an aircraft during an exercise “over national territory at the end of a flight that represented a nuclear air raid.”

“A Rafale from the Strategic Air Forces has just successfully completed the first in-flight test launch of an ASMPA ‘Renovated’ supersonic nuclear missile, without a warhead. This long-planned operation fulfills the ambition set out in the Military Programming Law for our nuclear deterrence, demonstrating its excellence and operational credibility,” commented Sébastien Lecornu. 

In a subsequent post on the social media platform X, the minister congratulated “all the forces, ministry teams, and industrial partners involved” in a “long-planned operation.”

The French nuclear missile test took place after Russia began nuclear exercises with tactical weapons in the southern military district, not far from the Ukrainian border. 

Rafale carries ASMPA-R supersonic nuclear missile
Rafale carries ASMPA-R supersonic nuclear missile. Image: X – Sébastien Lecornu

On May 21, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the start of exercises based on the use of tactical nuclear weapons “in response to the provocative statements of some Western officials,” beginning with those of French President Emmanuel Macron, who repeatedly mentioned the possibility of sending ground forces to Ukraine.

However, on May 22, the Strategic Air Forces (FAS), which are part of the Air and Space Force (AAE), also conducted a nuclear-oriented exercise as part of Operation “Durandal,” which had been indicated in a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) published a month earlier by the Aeronautical Information Service (SIA) of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC).

According to this document, it was a “national operation” called Durandal, which included “low, medium, and high-altitude flights as well as refueling, interception, and missile firing operations in the Atlantic. It also specified that there would be “three activations on three different days, each time for all zones,” including five temporary restricted areas. This NOTAM was valid for a period from May 13 to June 14.

“This operation, representative of a strategic raid, was conducted over national territory. The raid, composed of A330 Phénix refueling aircraft and Rafale B from the Strategic Air Forces, faced opposition threats from air-to-air and surface-to-air means of the Air and Space Force,” it explained. It also specified that the launch of this ASMPA “Renovated,” without a warhead, as well as its free flight, had been “monitored by means of the Directorate General of Armament [DGA] ‘Missile Tests’ from the sites of Biscarrosse, Hourtin, and Quimper.”

The mid-life renovation program for the ASMP-A (Air-Sol Moyenne Portée – Amélioré) cruise missile was launched in 2016 to address its obsolescence and, above all, maintain its performance in terms of precision and penetration capability until its replacement by the ASN4G (4th Generation Air-to-Surface Nuclear) around 2035.

French Rafale Aircraft Launches Upgraded Nuclear-Capable Missile – ASMPA-R

Approximately five meters long and weighing 800 kg, the ASMPA-R flies at a speed of at least Mach 2, thanks to its ramjet engine. Equipped with a 300 kt nuclear warhead, it ranges around 500 km. Its particularity is that it can follow several trajectories (low, very low, or high altitude).



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