Home » News » Around the Globe » A Nuclear-Armed Rafale

A Nuclear-Armed Rafale

by John Reed on May 31, 2011

Check out this great picture of a French air force Rafale armed with what appears to be an ASMP-A (Air Sol Moyenne Porte Ameliore) nuclear missile. The latest variant of the missile can fly for 500 kilometers at speeds of Mach 3 with a 300 kiloton warhead. The weapon is designed to be used as a last-ditch warning shot prior to an all out attack by France’s air-and-sea-based nuclear diad, the Force De Frappe.

The French air force’s Strike Squadron 3/4 flying Mirage 2000Ns and Strike Squadron 1/91 flying the Rafales are both equipped with the missile.

I’ve got to say, I’m not sure how effective nuclear warning shots are if the other guy has nukes, too.

Props to Steve Trimble for finding this picture. Here’s the original poster.

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{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

kljaldkj May 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm

aaand why was this thing airborne?

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Answerless May 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Veeery good question.

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anon May 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm

(public) weapon carriage qualification, probably

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ew-3 June 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Not sure if you guys are kidding or not, but the missile in the picture is likely an experimental or test unit. It's common practice to paint equipment orange/red that are not operational.
So it being airborne is likely not noteworthy.

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Hunter78 May 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm

300 Kiloton warning shot?

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indian May 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm

in terms of TNT equivelance

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USA94 May 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I think the french are feeling either "Badass" or "stupid"

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froggy May 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm

try it, is to accept it, idiot !

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James May 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Last ditch effort before France surrenders you mean.

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anon May 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm

yeah, one of the most militarily dominant nations to have ever existed…

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crackedlenses May 31, 2011 at 7:55 pm

They kinda faded out after WWI; no offence to their past history, but they aren't the fighters they used to be…..

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Hurrah June 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

So did the Japanese, but I doubt you would deny their quality as warriors between 1900 and 1945.

Seriously, Anglos that promote this 'French Surrender-Monkey' idiocy are merely stating that they're too ignorant to know who Napoleon is.

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saberhagen June 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Japanese rose to the world top powers while France was busy surrendering. Last time I check, Napoleon is an Corsican with Italian ancestry.

Christian Benesch June 4, 2011 at 5:11 am

Yes they bore the brunt of the First World War.
Loosing millions of young men can break the back of every nation.

The British barely made it through WW2 either, without having lost so much in WW1. Only their island status saved them and American support.

This is the fate of all the major European colonial powers. They can't keep up world domination after a certain point.

But, if I recall correctly, it was the French who actually tried to fight for their Empire, not the British. Demographics decided that one. Oh well.

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froggy May 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm

connard, remember, apart Japanese worn out army, you managed 2 bombs with no threats

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saberhagen June 1, 2011 at 3:09 am

and what did French do with worn out German army?

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froggy June 1, 2011 at 9:23 am

like if you would have been able to fight Germany in 1940, ignorant !

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TROJANII June 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Like the French say, "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em.".

saberhagen June 1, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Yes! Shouldnt have fought them in 1940. Even more so in 1941 because they actually grew stronger and more confident AFTER fighting with the French. Hilarious, isnt it?

darkshadows71 June 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I'm guessing your referring to WWII, and if so I guess it's easy to sit back seventy years later and crack jokes that shine the spotlight on your ignorance. Try to remember what a military power Germany was is 1940, the speed and shock of the blitzkrieg, their overwhelming airpower… the list goes on. And remember, it took the combined effort of all the allied nations over five years and god only knows how many milions dead or wounded to get Germany to capitulate. Tis easy to crack jokes and make uneducated and ignorant remarks, but remember, France fought very hard, often to the last man in an overwhelmingly desperate and hopeless situation. Try studying your history a little more before flashing your immature ignorance to the world.

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saberhagen June 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm

LOL, last man? I guess it didnt not include Petain? Or should I say not include a whole part of France that was not occupied (yet)?

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Kevin June 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

Battle of France = 100 000+ french military KIA in a bit over a month, and four weeks of high-intensity fighting (with 27 000 german KIA, as much as for the first 6? months of the USSR invasion). to put it in perspective, it's as much, with equally-sized armies, as the confederates for the whole CW, and it would be the 2011 USA losing about 800 000 KIA in one single month.
Did the germans kick the collective french ass? Oh, yeah. Did the french surrender? Oh, no. And did the french ran away? Nope, the english expeditionary corps did ran away, leaving its heavy weaponry behind, and the FRENCH army fought rear guard battles to buy some time for the brits to go away to the safety of their island.

People, it's not 2003 anymore. French-bashing was politically expedient, but, now, grown ups should prevail over the sheeple who fancy themselves to be sheepdogs.

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saberhagen June 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm

"Did the french surrender? Oh, no"

Now that's funny. Which planet are you from? Yeah, they didnt surrender. They just let the Nazis to practice some parade routine in Champ Elysee LOL And I wonder why on earth Brit had to defend France while French themselves gave up.

WilyB June 2, 2011 at 9:09 am

Says James, the well known keyboard fighter, typing from his mom's basement.

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Kevin June 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

Yes, exactly. Stumbled onto a name for those types, "action-figures worshippers". A good chunk of the resident fauna of the "red meat" and "gear junkies" section of the milblogosphere… playing with their action-figures, always ready to wave their little flag, snickering about the eurofags and the cheese-eating surrendering monkeys…
BUT, just hint at a draft or something about their precious butt being put in harm's way, and suddenly, it's all about how they'll dodge the draft, go to Canada, etc, etc… because, you know, it's all about Liberty and high-minded concepts (insert suitable quote by ayn rand or Heinlein)… nothing to do with being posers affected by rear guilt survivor, "warfighting" vicarously by shopping and supporting any foreign war you want, as long as it's not them or their relatives risking their precious skin.
Sorry about the actual veterans who may read this, but, come on, anyone who's used to the comments threads from "gun" related blogs know it's basically true, for every ex LEO or mil, there's ten AFW.

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Kevin June 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

James, honest, you're a moron, and I'm sad writing this, because you're probably a nice guy. But, you're a moron, and you should get a girlfriend, you'll feel less need to get some "manliness cred" by getting onboard the french-bashing train, it's petty (an another french soldier has been killed yesterday in afghanistan, maybe more or less about the same that you wrote that comment, he was there, you were snickering typing on your keyboard), and it's lame (have you thought about some larger issues affecting the country right now, rather than wasting your mental energy making pointless ethnic slurs at an old, if annoying and bickering, ally of the US???).

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Matt June 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm

France used to be good (huge empires dont build themselves)
Then WWII happened
And after that they've embraced socialism (free health care, etc) over total military might (their army is smaller than the USMC, feel free to check as I may have that wrong)

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A. Nonymous May 31, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Still trying to wrap my mind around the term "nuclear warning shot." I assume this would only be used against another nuclear-armed country. "RSVP to Armageddon" is the more likely outcome.

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Trooper2 June 1, 2011 at 1:06 am

Unique, I believe, to the French. From Wikipedia:
"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" (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."
Maybe too much red wine in the diet?

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Thomas L. Nielsen June 1, 2011 at 1:47 am

Well, either that, or Wiki isn't the best source in the world with regards to nuclear policy?

But if the Wiki article is credible, a 300kt warning shot does indeed seem a bit OTT.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Christian Benesch June 3, 2011 at 5:23 am

I guess the warning shot would be dropped *next* to an important city or on advancing troops. And I am sure the enemy would notice a 300 kton explosion and it might get him to reconsider, don't you think.? Especially if he was speculating on an easy conventional victory.

It would not necessarily mean all out Amargeddon. The Russians might just have said: "Oh I see! So you really do not want to join the world revolution? OK OK we get the hint. We keep Germany then."

Even against Japan such a "warning" was considered, although it's unlikely anyone would have understood the full extent of that warning. I think it was Truman who decided to actually drop it on a populated city.

The overall idea clearly stems from cold-war thinking and sure, it could have been the first shot in a global catastrophe.

Christian Benesch

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Steve B. May 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I'm thinking the "nuclear armed warning shot" concept, as described here, is a bit of sarcasm perhaps?. I can't consider the French military designing this for such a purpose, as there's really no potential enemy they would use it against. Russia ?. China ?, UK ?.

Possibly it's more a "other then SLBM" nuclear weapon, for when their SLBM's cannot be targeted to a desired location and possibly they have some sort of confidence that an aircraft could do the job ?.

I admit I'm having a hard time envisioning such a scenario in today's day and age. Possibly Islamabad after some crazy lets loose a nuke in Paris ?. Long shot and maybe the cost cutters will retire these things.

SB

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froggy May 31, 2011 at 9:39 pm

french nuclear is to protect french territory, not american designed enemis, idiots the whole lot of you

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Nadnerbus May 31, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Well, then proceed to outline a scenario where this type of weapon would be useful.

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Loki June 1, 2011 at 5:52 am

A threat of nuclear or chemical attack from Libya for example. We live in a very unstable and unpredictable world, it is good to have possible means of attack at different levels of engagement even when nuclear weapons are concerned. Similarly, if an intruder enters my home, I might want to be able to shoot him in the shoulder before shooting him in the head.

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saberhagen June 1, 2011 at 3:12 am

Good for you. Finally French can protect their own soil without other come to help liberate them.

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TROJANII June 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Wellll. that remains to be seen.

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Kevin June 2, 2011 at 10:01 am
Gregory Savage June 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

If we are all idiots then how much sense does it make to debate with us. Learn English and go home.

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froggy June 1, 2011 at 9:25 am

no double standards of course !

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Jeff M June 1, 2011 at 12:17 am

A 300kt "warning shot" is in and of itself a joke.

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joe June 1, 2011 at 3:29 am

There's a degree of 'tactical' utility for a weapon like this. As noted, it's one of several smaller nukes that US and Western Europe envisaged deploying in a 'soviet hordes breaking through the Fulda Gap' scenario. Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles are great for flattening cities but the communications loop makes it too slow to try and target an armour brigade hoofing it along an as-yet-unknown route through western Germany.

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USAF SSgt June 1, 2011 at 3:57 am

The UK? Really? You actually think that France, a NATO country, would be worried about a threat from the UK, another NATO country? You are an idiot, plain and simple.

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Loki June 1, 2011 at 5:14 am

The answer is the attack by the perfidious English on the French fleet at Mers-El-Kebir in 1940. With allies like these who needs enemies. Never again…

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Noth June 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm

That's what happens when your leaders bath in defeatism and fail to defend against the invader, and sign surrender deals and then collaboration ones. Mers El Khebir was entirely the French's fault.

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Loki June 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

in 1914 the English lines were pulverized by the Germans Petain send 40 divisions to pluck the hole. In 1940 he asked a reinforcement of the air force the English pulled it out instead, therefore my comment. The situation was certainly dire but not necessarily desperate. As to failing to defend tell that to the 100,000 dead French soldiers of the battle of France.

USAF SSgt June 2, 2011 at 5:16 am

Good point, except for the fact that the Brits were attacking them to prevent them from falling into the Vichy French side's hands and ultimately the Nazi Germans, oh and, that was before NATO.

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Christian Benesch June 3, 2011 at 6:37 am

So an ASMP-A on Portsmouth would make you even?

I think Steve B. was just listing the available nuclear powers. But I do not think that the deterrent is just meant against a nuclear attack. It can be used in any attack scenario where you end up at a disadvantage and where your territory is threatened.

I doubt very highly that it will be used in the current kind of external operations or as a foreign policy tool. And it is not meant to be. The nuclear option is always the very last resort. The tactical nuclear option the one before the last.

The only thing that justifies the immense costs in the meantime is that having these things is still impressive. The French think it makes them a more serious player. And I think there is some truth in that.

Christian Benesch

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saberhagen June 4, 2011 at 12:02 am

yeah, and that's thanks to your 'brave' Petain who kiss Hitler's a$$

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saberhagen June 4, 2011 at 12:04 am

yeah, and that's thanks to your 'brave' Petain who kiss Hitler's a$$

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Hontas Farmer July 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm

The scenario it was made for was having 1.5 Million Soviet Troops in East Germany and Czechoslovakia blitzkrieg their way towards the Rhine. The French would airburst this warhead in their path, or over the advanced elements of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces as they made for the Rhine. The hope would be to keep the Conventional Soviet forces from attacking into France in a push for the Atlantic

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Tim May 31, 2011 at 11:15 pm

When Carla Bruni decides to get rid of Sarkosy !

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PondScum June 1, 2011 at 12:25 am

Note to China, an armada of these tactical nuclear missiles would be very effective in repelling a [US] carrier battle group.

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Gregory Savage June 1, 2011 at 8:57 am

Okay this is an American forum, unless I missed something.

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Anonimouse9 June 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Doesn't matter. China has better non-nuclear missiles for that very purpose.

Nuclear weapons, aside from MAD city-busters, are obsolete.
1) Never used (though they should have been)
2) Better non-nuclear choices that are just as destructive
3) Too dangerous to carry around (easier for them to "disappear")

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TROJANII June 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Never used?

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stef June 1, 2011 at 1:48 am

The warning is when the jet is airborne, not when the missile is shot. It's a way to show you really mean it but there's still a (short) room for an agreement – you can still call it of.
On contrary, a hidden sub is not warning anybody until the missile is shot – wich is not anymore a warning but a strike.

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Stormcharger June 1, 2011 at 2:05 am

Spot on. This falls under the umbrella of nuclear deterence as practiced by SAC for 50 years. While it shows the other side how serious you take their actions by carrying aloft a nuclear weapon, the idea is never to have to actually use it.

A submarine with 192 nuclear warheads is daunting to a nation like Russia or China, as they have the capability to know that it's in the ocean waiting. But other smaller nucear armed countries usually don't have the intelligence capabilities to know when a sub has put to sea and hence no deterence.

However, anouncing that your flying around with a nuclear missile on your wing, that any third world dictator can see with his radar is a whole different story. It's like reaching to let your 120 pound Pit Bull of his leash when some guy insults your girlfriend, he knows he's about to get mauled. At least that's the theory…

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Mastro June 2, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I never bought these arguments- basically just an excuse for the Air Force boys to have jets.

If a country has a large sub fleet- some are at sea- heck- I think the Brits and French have a boomer at sea at all times.

If you need a "warning shot" for the bad guys- either do it diplomatically, or go to DEFCON TWO or whatever that is in French.

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saberhagen June 1, 2011 at 3:12 am

LOL And this room is called "out of gas" or "the pilot just pass out". You dont need to know where the sub is to know its out there and its ready to wipe out half of your country.

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stef June 1, 2011 at 5:34 am

There's an Illustration of the concept in "You only live twice". End of the movie, USA threatened to nuke URSS with a fleet of airborne B52 while James Bond desperately try to foil the plans of evil Dr Bloefeld and save the world. Of course, there's a clock ticking fast. Last ditch.

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kim June 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

URSS?

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Jay June 1, 2011 at 10:41 am

"Chrome Dome"

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jmd123 June 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm

"Fail-Safe"! Or is that "Dr. Strangelove"??

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6471960 June 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

They would love to use it on Israel.

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asdf June 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm
TROJANII June 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Uh-oh, "Neocons". lol

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Matt June 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Question.
Arent neo-conservatives people like Bush (supporter of Isreal)? So why would a neo-con say he wanted to nuke Isreal?

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asdf June 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm

recap: forget israel, it's not important anymore.

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kim June 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

France wanting to nuke Israel?

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Bob June 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I wonder if the missle comes with tennis shoes so the FRENCH chicken s__t pilot can run away should his plane go down. A country full of thankless wimps. My Dad took a bullet in WW2 for them and have an Uncle who was a POW for six months. The French citizens at the time laughed and derided him when he as a POW was paraded thru Metz France with two very large, blonde haired, blue eyed German soldiers holding each of his arms and showing the locals there how powerful they were. With them for "allies" we have little help. Like I said, French are wimps. If I know something is made in France, I don't buy it. Let the money do the talking.

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gildasd June 5, 2011 at 7:04 pm

My gran has a metal plate in the head after being knocked over by a Panzer in 1941as 15 year old, my whole family was held hostage in St Nazaire until after Berlin fell while under constant US and UK bombardment yet they attended the burial of every downed allied pilot. Despite orders that doing so was a one way trip to bullet in the back of the head (if you were lucky). She and my gramp, as 14 years olds, also dragged rotting English corpses out of the mud after the Lancastria was sunk for proper burial. So your uncle might have seen the worst of the bad, but don't put us all in the same bucket.

To know what "real" French people were doing, not the lazy arseholes your uncle met, please read about Bir Hakeim, the resistance and the "Free French" in general.

Personally, a French man, I try to buy American for my tooling, while your governments since Reagan have been exporting American jobs.

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Corvan June 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm

500km, Mach 3 performance!?! Put a conventional warhead on that thing & get it on the international market now! Now!! NOW!!!

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Christian Benesch June 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm

The French calculation then was to make it too costly to invade them, even though they have become a comparatively small power.

Epitomized in Charles de Gaulles statement: "I truly believe that one does not light-heartedly attack people who are able to kill 80 million Russians (the French with their nuclear weapons), even if one can kill 800 million French, that is if there were 800 million French."

(and surely there was a tinge of never ever letting an army roll over them again as in WW2)

And yes, guys, it is called "deterrent" for a reason. It is not meant to be dropped on anybody, but it has to be credible. So the planes have to fly (and probably let themselves be photographed).

Whether "deterrent" is a good thing or whether it is crazy is another matter. But that is not a different question for the French than for the British, US or Russians.

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bob June 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm

The author of this article is quoting wikipedia.
Either we can now read the nuclear weapon's strategy of a country on a free online encyclopedia or the post is highly inacurate.

Do you guys even know what 300 kiloton is? It's 20 times Hiroshima.
Yeah there is more destructive but that will most likely do the job.

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Anthony J. Mitchell June 2, 2011 at 1:51 am

Napoleon is French by living on French acquired territory. To be come a citizen all you had to do was own property on French soil.

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Chimp June 3, 2011 at 4:10 am

"entered service in October 2009" according to Wikipedia.

With 300kt in the nose, you'd want to be really, really sure you could hit it. And mach 3 doesn't give you a lot of time to put the donuts back in the bag, turn off the TV and bring up the FCS. Even with a conventional warhead, that would be pretty neat as a way of making some general's day.

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saberhagen June 3, 2011 at 11:58 pm

which part of 'Foreign" part you don't understand. At least French did come up with a genius solution for their problem.

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saberhagen June 4, 2011 at 12:01 am

but but they actually FAILED, didnt they?

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Christian Benesch June 4, 2011 at 5:28 am

Yes, they grew more confident, because before the Western campaign against France the German general staff almost sh*t themsemselves. They were close to overthrowing Hitler, because they thought he was mad to take on France.

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