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Published 16:51 IST, May 23rd 2024

France Conducts Successful Test of ASMPA Supersonic Nuclear Missile Amid Global Tensions

This test occurs amid heightened global nuclear tensions, particularly with Russia's military activities and escalating rhetoric.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
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Rafale Fighter Jet | Image: AP
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Paris: France has marked a significant milestone in its defence capabilities by successfully testing the updated ASMPA supersonic missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The announcement was made by the country’s Defence Minister, Sébastien Lecornu. This test signifies France's ongoing commitment to maintaining a robust and reliable nuclear deterrence capability.

“Operation Durandal: a Rafale of the Strategic Air Forces has just successfully carried out the first flight test firing of a renovated ASMPA supersonic nuclear missile, without on-board payload. This operation, planned for a long time, realizes the ambition provided for in the military programming law for our nuclear deterrence, of which it demonstrates the excellence and operational credibility. Congratulations to all the forces, ministry teams and industrial partners involved in the operation,” Defence Minister Lecornu wrote on X.

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The ASMPA, an air-launched cruise missile, has been a crucial component of France's defence strategy since its initial development. The missile is manufactured by MBDA France and is referred to in French nuclear doctrine as a "pre-strategic" weapon. This classification means it serves as a warning shot before the potential deployment of strategic nuclear weapons.  

ASMPA Missile Evolution and Capabilities  

The missile’s development began with Aérospatiale's Tactical Missile Division, now part of MBDA. The ASMP first entered service in May 1986, and an upgraded version, the ASMP-A, was developed in 1997 and entered service in 2009. Another modernization program, the ASMPA-R, was launched in 2016, demonstrating continuous improvement in missile technology.

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Credit- Aviation Wall

The latest test of the ASMPA missile was conducted using a strategic Rafale fighter jet. This test, which did not involve a warhead, was part of the Durandal military exercises. These exercises are designed to ensure the readiness and reliability of France's nuclear forces.  

Successful Flight Test Highlights Reliability  

Defence Minister Lecornu confirmed the test's success on social media. He stated, “The Rafale fighter jet of the strategic air forces has just successfully carried out the first flight test of the updated supersonic nuclear ASMPA missile without a warhead.” This test is a clear demonstration of the missile's capabilities and France’s preparedness.  

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The test is part of broader efforts under the Durandal military exercises, which run from May 13 to June 14. These exercises focus on various aspects of military readiness and capability, particularly in the realm of nuclear deterrence. The successful test underscores the importance of maintaining a credible defence system.  

Heightened Nuclear Tensions  

France’s missile test coincides with increased military activities in Russia’s Southern Military District. These exercises focus on the preparation and deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, these manoeuvres are intended to maintain readiness and respond to provocations.

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These exercises are set against a backdrop of escalating nuclear rhetoric from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Early in the Ukraine conflict, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces on “special alert” and later threatened the use of “all available means” to defend occupied territories in Ukraine. This ongoing tension underscores the importance of maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.  

The successful test of the ASMPA missile reaffirms France’s commitment to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent. By demonstrating its advanced military capabilities, France sends a clear message of its preparedness to defend its national security interests. This test is part of a broader strategy to uphold France's strategic autonomy.  

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The developments in nuclear capabilities and military exercises by major global powers highlight the fragile state of international security. As nations like France continue to enhance their defence technologies, the global community must navigate the complex dynamics of nuclear deterrence. Maintaining effective deterrence mechanisms is crucial for global stability. 

16:51 IST, May 23rd 2024