France successfully tested on Wednesday the modernized version of its ASMPA (Air-Sol Moyenne Portee) nuclear missile without a warhead, which is part of the air component of French deterrence, announced the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly. The announcement comes at the height of Russian special operations in Ukraine, and some observers are expecting a potential military escalation by Russia.
ASMP and ASMP-A have a length of 5.38 m and a weight of 860 kg. They are powered by a supersonic rocket powered by liquid fueled ramjet. They fly Mach 2 to Mach 3, with a range of 80 km to 300 km for ASMP and 500 km for ASMP-A, depending on the flight profile. The warhead has a variable yield of 100 to 300 kilotons of TNT (420 to 1260 TJ) for the TN 81 for ASMP use and a variable yield of 100 to 300 kilotons of TNT (420 to 1260 TJ) for the TNA (air-launched nuclear warhead) for use in ASMP-A.
The Rafale took off from the Cazaux base
“The missile, developed by (the French manufacturer, editor’s note) MBDA, was fired by a Rafale which took off from the airbase 120 of Cazaux” in the south-west of France, said a release from Defence Ministry.
France, the only country in the European Union with nuclear weapons
“This success marks the entry into the production phase of the renovated ASMPA missile, a prerequisite before its entry into service in the Strategic Air Forces of the Air and Space Force and in the Nuclear Naval Air Force of the French Navy,” said the press release.
France is the only country in the European Union with nuclear weapons.
France has only two nuclear delivery components: a naval and an air force. France has four new-generation SSBNs (nuclear ballistic missile submarines). At least one is on permanent patrol, equipped with M51 ballistic missiles. Two submarines usually are in operational readiness, excluding the one on patrol. The missiles entered service in 2010, and they have an intercontinental reach. TNO (Tête nucléaire océanique) or oceanic nuclear warhead is Thermo nuclear warhead.
The nuclear air component includes two squadrons of Mirage-2000N and Rafale of the French Air Force and an aircraft carrier operated by the French navy. They carry the ASMP missiles (medium-range air-to-ground) equipped with the TN83 weapon, which have been gradually replaced since 2010 by ASMPA missiles (upgraded) fitted with the airborne nuclear warhead (TNA, Tête Nucleaire Aéroportée). TNA is also a Thermo Nuclear warhead.
The French say that the TNA and TNO are robust weapons resulting from the final nuclear test campaign, 1995-1996. They are not more “modern” but do not need to be tested again.
A document submitted to the 2015 NPT Review Conference by the Government of France in 2015 shows that the French warheads count is below 300. France has 16 submarine-launched cruise missiles per vessel and ordnance for three boats. There are 54 air-launched cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. There are 40 operational warheads for Air-launched systems, and ten are non operational.
ASMPA to be replaced by ASN4G
The ASMP entered service in May 1986, replacing the earlier An-22 free-fall bomb carried on the French Dassault Mirage IV and the An-52 bomb carried on the Dassault Super Étendard.
The medium-range air-to-ground nuclear missile (ASMPA) was put into service in 2009 and is to be replaced around 2035 by a new-generation air-to-ground system ASN4G (Air-Sol Nucléairede 4eme Génération – air-to-surface nuclear weapons of the fourth generation).
ASN4G is known to be a hypersonic missile with a hypersonic ramjet engine or scramjet to accelerate cruise missiles to speeds exceeding 5-6 Mach. The range is expected to be around 1000 km.
ASN4G is being developed by ArianeGroup and is scheduled to be operational by 2021.