Force de frappe

Force de frappe

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The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based
Nuclear triad
A nuclear triad refers to a nuclear arsenal which consists of three components, traditionally strategic bombers, ICBMs and SLBMs. The purpose of having a three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a...

 nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence
Deterrence theory
Deterrence theory gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and features prominently in current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclear technology in North Korea and Iran. Deterrence theory however was...

. The French Nuclear Force, part of the Armed Forces of France
Military of France
The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

, is the third largest nuclear-weapons force in the world, following the nuclear triads of the Russian Federation
Russia and weapons of mass destruction
Russia possesses the largest stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the world. The country declared an arsenal of 39,967 tons of chemical weapons in 1997, of which 48% have been destroyed. The Federation of American Scientists, a renowned organization for assessing nuclear weapon...

 and the United States
Nuclear weapons and the United States
The United States was the first country to develop nuclear weapons, and is the only country to have used them in warfare, with the separate bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Before and during the Cold War it conducted over a thousand nuclear tests and developed many long-range...

.

In March 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

 of France confirmed reports giving the actual size of France's nuclear arsenal, and he announced that France will reduce its French Air Force
French Air Force
The French Air Force , literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933...

-carried nuclear arsenal by one-third, leaving the Force de Frappe with just under 300 warheads.

History



The decision to arm France with nuclear weapons was made in the mid-1950s by the administration of Pierre Mendès-France
Pierre Mendès-France
Pierre Mendès France was a French politician. He descended from a Portuguese Jewish family that moved to France in the sixteenth century.-Third Republic and World War II:...

 under the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

. President Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

, upon his return to power in 1958, solidified the initial vision into the well-defined concept of a fully independent Force de Frappe capable of protecting France from a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 or other foreign attack, independent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which President de Gaulle considered to be dominated by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to an unacceptable degree. In particular, France was concerned that in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, the United States - already bogged down in the War in Vietnam and afraid of Soviet retaliation against the United States proper - would not come to the aid of its Allies in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

.

The strategic concept behind the Force de Frappe was the so-called dissuasion du faible au fort (Weak-to-strong deterrence), i.e., the capability of inflicting to a more powerful enemy more damage than the complete destruction of the French population would represent. The enemy, having more to lose, would therefore refrain from proceeding any further (see Mutual Assured Destruction
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual Assured Destruction, or mutually assured destruction , is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of...

). This principle was summarized in a statement attributed to President de Gaulle himself:
In his book La paix nucléaire (1975), French Admiral de Joybert explained deterrence as:
France carried out its first test of an atomic bomb
Gerboise Bleue
Gerboise Bleue was the name of the first French nuclear test. It was an atomic bomb detonated in the middle of the Algerian Sahara desert on 13 February 1960, during the Algerian War...

 in Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 in 1960 and some operational French nuclear weapons became available in 1964. Then, France executed its first test of the much more powerful hydrogen bomb over its South Pacific Ocean test range in 1966. This first hydrogen bomb was air-dropped from a strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

 - in an already weaponized form.

President de Gaulle's vision of the Force de Frappe featured the same triad of air-based, land-based, and sea-based
Nuclear triad
A nuclear triad refers to a nuclear arsenal which consists of three components, traditionally strategic bombers, ICBMs and SLBMs. The purpose of having a three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a...

 means of deterrence already deployed by both the United States and the Soviet Union. Work on these components had started in the late 1950s and was vigorously accelerated as soon as de Gaulle became the President of France.

Air


Initially, the Force de Frappe consisted of an air-based component only around the newly developed Dassault Mirage IV
Dassault Mirage IV
The Dassault Mirage IV was a French jet-propelled supersonic strategic bomber and deep-reconnaissance aircraft. For many years it was a vital part of the nuclear triad of the Force de Frappe, France's nuclear deterrent striking force.-Development:...

 strategic bomber, designed to carry gravity bomb
Gravity bomb
An unguided bomb, also known as a free-fall bomb, gravity bomb, dumb bomb, or iron bomb, is a conventional aircraft-delivered bomb that does not contain a guidance system and hence, simply follows a ballistic trajectory....

s over targets in the Eastern bloc. This component was declared operational in October 1964 and has been continually modernized since then. The bomber version of the Mirage IV was retired in 1996 and replaced by the Mirage 2000 N and Dassault Rafale F3
Dassault Rafale
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy...

 with new ASMP-A missile
Air-Sol Moyenne Portée
The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée is a French air-launched nuclear missile. Part of the Force de frappe, in French nuclear doctrine it is the last-resort "warning shot" prior to a full-scale employment of strategic nuclear weapons...

.

Land



The land-based component of the French nuclear triad was added in August 1971 with the operational readiness of the 18-silo
Silo
A silo is a structure for storing bulk materials.Silo may also refer to:* Silo , a 3D modeling software* Silo , a defunct chain of retail electronics stores* SILO , used in Linux...

 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile arsenal at the Plateau d'Albion in the Vaucluse
Vaucluse
The Vaucluse is a department in the southeast of France, named after the famous spring, the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.- History :Vaucluse was created on 12 August 1793 out of parts of the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, and Basses-Alpes...

 region of southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

. Later, this land-based component was augmented with the mobile short-range Pluton missile
Pluton (missile)
The Pluton missile was a French nuclear-armed short-range ballistic missile system launched from a transporter erector launcher platform mounted on an AMX 30 tank chassis. It was designed to provide the tactical part of French nuclear deterrence during the Cold War.The Pluton came in replacement...

 and Hadès missile
Hadès (missile)
The Hadès system was a short-range ballistic pre-strategic nuclear weapon system designed by France, as a last warning before use of strategic nuclear weapons, in the perspective of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe...

, which were designed to be launched from the front lines at any approaching foreign army. To defend against a Soviet/Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 invasion of West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, these could be deployed with the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 in the French Zone of Germany in westmost Germany.

Since the French military judged that a full-scale invasion of Western Europe by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact Allies was unlikely to be stopped by conventional armaments, these short-range nuclear missiles were meant as a "final warning
Warning shot
A warning shot is a military term describing harmless artillery shot or gunshot intended to call attention and demand some action of compliance...

" (ultime avertissement in French) which would tell the aggressor that any further advances would trigger a nuclear armageddon upon its major cities and other important targets.

The Pluton missile, introduced in 1974, was retired from service and scrapped beginning in 1993, and its successor, the Hadès missile, was just produced in limited numbers during the early 1990s, and then withdrawn from the Army and placed in arsenal storage in 1995. Next, the French Government decided to eliminate all of these missiles, and the last Hadès was dismantled on June 23, 1997. That was the end of the French mobile land-based nuclear missiles.

The French fixed IRBMs at the Albion missile base, were considered to be approaching obsolescence, and also deemed to be no longer necessary following the fall of the Soviet Union, were also disposed of, and the Albion missile base was permanently shut down in 1999. Thus, the land-based missile leg of the French nuclear triad has been eliminated.

Sea


The ocean-based, mobile component of the French nuclear triad entered service in December 1971 with the commissioning of its first ballistic missile submarine
Ballistic missile submarine
A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles .-Description:Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident...

, the nuclear submarine
Nuclear submarine
A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor . The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable: nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for...

 Le Redoutable, which carried 16 M4 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles similar to the American and British Polaris missiles.

Since then, the ocean-based French nuclear deterrent has been expanded to a squadron of four submarines, two of which are always kept out of port and on patrol. Also, since 1985, some of the French ballistic missile submarines have grown old and obsolescent, have been retired from service, and have been replaced by newer missile submarines, also with 16 missile tubes apiece, and carrying more-advanced French M45 missile.
A new submarine Le Terrible was put into service on 20 September 2010 armed with the M51 missile similar to the American Trident II
UGM-133 Trident II
UGM-133 Trident II, or Trident D5 is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, California, and deployed with the US Navy and Royal Navy. It was first deployed in 1990, and is still in service....

.

Moreover the French nuclear aircraft carrier vessel R91 Charles-de-Gaulle operates since 2010 with Rafale F3
Dassault Rafale
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy...

 fighters armed with ASMP-A
Air-Sol Moyenne Portée
The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée is a French air-launched nuclear missile. Part of the Force de frappe, in French nuclear doctrine it is the last-resort "warning shot" prior to a full-scale employment of strategic nuclear weapons...

 nuclear missiles.

Present state




Land-based component


France no longer possesses land-based nuclear missiles. The IRBM base at the Plateau d'Albion (Vaucluse
Vaucluse
The Vaucluse is a department in the southeast of France, named after the famous spring, the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.- History :Vaucluse was created on 12 August 1793 out of parts of the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, and Basses-Alpes...

 region) was deactivated in 1999, and its missiles scrapped. All French Army units equipped with short-range missiles such as the Pluton
Pluton (missile)
The Pluton missile was a French nuclear-armed short-range ballistic missile system launched from a transporter erector launcher platform mounted on an AMX 30 tank chassis. It was designed to provide the tactical part of French nuclear deterrence during the Cold War.The Pluton came in replacement...

 and the Hadès
Hadès (missile)
The Hadès system was a short-range ballistic pre-strategic nuclear weapon system designed by France, as a last warning before use of strategic nuclear weapons, in the perspective of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe...

 have also been disbanded, and their missiles scrapped.

All of the nuclear warheads from the above have been dismantled, and their fissile
Fissile
In nuclear engineering, a fissile material is one that is capable of sustaining a chain reaction of nuclear fission. By definition, fissile materials can sustain a chain reaction with neutrons of any energy. The predominant neutron energy may be typified by either slow neutrons or fast neutrons...

 nuclear materials recycled.

Sea-based component



The French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 includes a nuclear strategic branch, the Force Océanique Stratégique
Fošt
Fošt is a settlement at the foothills of the Pohorje range to the west if Slovenska Bistrica municipality in northeastern Slovenia. The area is part of the traditional region of Lower Styria. It is now included with the rest of the Slovenska Bistrica municipality into the Podravje statistical...

, which has contained as many as five nuclear-powered
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 ballistic missile submarine
Ballistic missile submarine
A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles .-Description:Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident...

s.
  • Six Redoutable class submarine
    Redoutable class submarine
    The Redoutable class submarine is a ballistic missile submarine class of the French Marine Nationale . In French, the type is called Sous-marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engins , literally "Missile-launching nuclear submarine"...

    s, armed with 16 M4 IRBM
    M4 SLBM
    The M4 was a French Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile deployed on the nuclear Le Redoutable class submarines They entered service on the 1 May 1985...

    s entered service between 1971 and 2008.

The last of these ballistic missile submaries, the L'Inflexible (S 615) was retired from service and sent to the boneyard in 2008.
  • One Le Terrible
    Le Terrible (S 619)
    Le Terrible is a Triomphant class strategic nuclear submarine of the French Navy. She was launched on 21 March 2008 On 27 January 2010, at 9h25, Terrible launched an M51 SLBM from underwater, in Audierne Bay...

    (S 619) commissioned in 2010, armed with 16 of the more modern M51 missile
    M51 SLBM
    The M51 SLBM is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, and deployed with the French Navy. Designed to replace the M45 SLBM The M51 SLBM is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, and deployed with the French...

     that has just been successfully tested on 2010.
  • Three Triomphant
    Le Triomphant class submarine
    The Triomphant class of ballistic missile submarines of the French Navy is the active class of four boats that entered service in 1997, 1999, 2004, and 2010...

    -class SSBNs: the Le Triomphant
    Le Triomphant (S 616)
    The Triomphant is a strategic nuclear submarine of the French Navy; she is the lead boat of her class. She collided with a British nuclear submarine in 2009.-Construction and testing:...

    (S 616), the Le Téméraire
    Le Téméraire (S 617)
    The Téméraire is a strategic nuclear submarine of the French Navy...

    (S 617), the Le Vigilant
    Le Vigilant (S 618)
    The Vigilant is a strategic nuclear submarine of the French Navy.The Royal Navy also have a SSBN in service called Vigilant....

    (S 618), armed with 16 of the more modern M45 missile
    M45 SLBM
    The M45 SLBM is the current standard French Navy's submarine launched ballistic missile...

    . They will be upgraded to the new M51 missile
    M51 SLBM
    The M51 SLBM is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, and deployed with the French Navy. Designed to replace the M45 SLBM The M51 SLBM is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, and deployed with the French...

     until 2018, Le Vigilant
    Le Vigilant (S 618)
    The Vigilant is a strategic nuclear submarine of the French Navy.The Royal Navy also have a SSBN in service called Vigilant....

    will be the first one and works will start in 2011.

Air-based component



It is estimated that France has about 60 ASMP
Air-Sol Moyenne Portée
The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée is a French air-launched nuclear missile. Part of the Force de frappe, in French nuclear doctrine it is the last-resort "warning shot" prior to a full-scale employment of strategic nuclear weapons...

 medium-range air-to-ground missiles with nuclear warheads, of which:
  • About 50 arm the Air Force
    French Air Force
    The French Air Force , literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933...

     and these can be carried by the Mirage 2000N long-range multirole fighter, which replaced the Mirage IV A(ttaque)and P(enetration) versions. The newer warplanes are based at the Luxeuil Air Base
    Luxeuil Air Base
    Luxeuil is a medium size air base located at , near Luxeuil-les-Bains in the Franche-Comté region of France. It has two runways: 113/293 with a length of 2433m, and 038/218 with a length of 2315m....

    , the Istres Air Base
    Istres Air Base
    Istres-Le Tubé Air Base is a large multi-role tasked French Air Force base located near Istres, northwest of Marseille, France. The airport facilities are also known as Istres - Le Tubé .- Armée de l'air :...

    , and the Avord Air Base
    Avord Air Base
    Avord Air Base or BA 702 , named after Captain Georges Madon, is a base of the French Air Force located north northwest of Avord in central France....

    . Since 1 July 2010, a new squadron of Rafale N
    Dassault Rafale
    The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy...

     (N for Nuclear) has been declared fully operational as the EC 1/91 Gascogne in Saint-Dizier
    Saint-Dizier
    Saint-Dizier is a commune in the Haute-Marne department in north-eastern France.It has a population of 31,000 and is a subprefecture of the department...

     BA 113.

  • About 10 more arm the Aviation navale
    Aviation Navale
    French Naval Aviation of the French Navy includes 206 aircraft and 6,800 men, both civilians and military personnel. They operate from six airbases, five of them in Metropolitan France and one overseas....

     and these can be carried by the French Navy
    French Navy
    The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

    's Rafale
    Dassault Rafale
    The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy...

     (M version, for Marine). These warplanes are based at Landivisiau Naval Air Base
    Landivisiau
    Landivisiau is a commune in the Finistère department of Brittany in north-western France.-International relations:It is twinned with Bideford in the southwest of the United Kingdom.-Population:...

     when ashore, and on the aircraft carrier
    Aircraft carrier
    An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

     Charles de Gaulle when she is at sea. They can also be operated from air bases on land. The Rafale M can also be operated from US Navy aircraft carriers, and is the only foreign nuclear armed aircraft that can be.


The actual locations of all of the nuclear missiles is always a tightly-held secret (there is several storages facilities known but the number of heads inside is highly classified and for safety reasons it often changes).

See also

  • France and weapons of mass destruction
    France and weapons of mass destruction
    France is known to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. France is one of the five "Nuclear Weapons States" under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; but is not known to possess or develop any chemical or biological weapons. France was the fourth country to test an independently...

  • List of states with nuclear weapons
  • Nuclear weapon
    Nuclear weapon
    A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

    s