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French Navy Rafale M Fighter Launched ASMPA Missile During Simulated Nuclear Strike Mission

Naval Forces News - France
French Navy Rafale M Fighter Launched ASMPA Missile During Simulated Nuclear Strike Mission
The French Ministry of Defence announced that a French Navy (Marine Nationale) Rafale M carrier-borne multirole fighter successfully launched an ASMPA missile during a simulated nuclear strike mission.
Rafale M ASMP A nuclear missile French Navy Marine Nationale A French Navy Rafale M fitted with a ASMPA nuclear missile. Picture: MBDA
During the test which took place on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, a Rafale M took off from the Avord Air Force Base and completed a flight of more than four hours. The flight involved all the phases of an airborne deterrent mission: transit flight, successive refuelings, low-altitude penetration, very low altitude phase with terrain following radar and precision launch of the ASMPA missile on a test area at the DGA missile test center of Biscarrosse (South West of France).

This assessment and evaluation of the Rafale / ASMPA missile combo is representative of a real mission of the French airborne nuclear component.

Long planned and carried out on a regular basis, the force evaluation firings are a demonstration of the reliability of the airborne weapons system over time. This new success reinforces the technical and operational credibility of French deterrence.
Rafale ASMPA MBDA Artist impression: Launch of an ASMPA nuclear missile from a Rafale
The Strategic Air Forces (forces aérienne stratégiques or FAS) is a branch of the French Air Force created in 14 January 1964 and responsible for the use of air-launched nuclear weapons. It is one of the French nuclear deterrence arms, the other one being the SSBNs and their ICBMs.

In the French Navy, there is a small air-launched nuclear arm as well called FANu (Force aéronavale nucléaire). A select number of pilots are trained to deploy ASMPA missiles from their Rafale M taking off from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

Designed and produced by MBDA, the ASMPA (air-sol moyenne portée amélioré) is defined by some as a tactical air to surface nuclear missile. In French nuclear doctrine however, it is called a "pre-strategic" weapon or a "last warning" weapon prior to the full-scale employment of strategic ICBMs from SSBNs.

This pretty unique missile has a range of about 500 kilometres (310 mi) with a speed of up to Mach 3 thanks to its ramjet engine fed by two air intakes. It is fitted with a TNA (tête nucléaire aéroportée) 300kt thermonuclear warhead.

According to MBDA, ASMPA is destined to replace the ASMP (strategic and ultimate deterrent air-launched nuclear missile, for deployment by France’s strategic air forces and which can be carried under the Mirage 2000N). The transition scenario from ASMP to ASMPA was initial entry into service on the K3 standard of the Mirage 2000N (in 2009) and subsequently on the F3 standard Rafale (in 2010).

The concept is similar to that of ASMP. The ASMPA air vehicle uses the air vehicle pre-developed for the Vesta activity (ramjet air vehicle) in conjunction with the ANF future anti-ship programme (ANF was suspended at the end of 1999). The missile is powered by a ramjet motor. This mode of propulsion, compared to a traditional rocket propulsion system, allows for the significant reduction of both the required space within the missile as well as missile weight in relation to the required range and warhead charge. It allows the missile to cover a large part of the flight envelope at high supersonic speeds. The range and penetration capabilities have been significantly enhanced in relation to ASMP. The missile is nuclear-attack hardened.