France's Ultimate Warning

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From the 70s to the end of the Cold War France deployed its own tracked vehicle launched battlefield nuclear missile, Pluton.
A truck and trailer mounted replacement Hades was entering service as the Cold War ended.
In peacetime Pluton and its warheads were stationed in France. However, once a war started the launchers would move into West Germany where France's First Army was still stationed even after France withdrew it from NATO.
France was quite open about what it would with its Plutons. They would be launched against an invading force as an "ultimate warning" not to invade France.
Although the Warsaw Pact was the likely invader, some have noted that given the rise of right wing politicians in West Germany in the 60s France might have had other threats in mind too.
Pluton left service thirty years ago but little has been revealed about where, when and how it would be used. There must be some fascinating Pluton stories out there.
France still retains tactical nuclear weapons designed to deliver an "ultimate warning" but these are now airborne.
 
I'd forgot about the Pluton. didn't France have a replacement in the works when the Cold War ended?
 
See my second para above

Oops! I didn't notice it the first I read your post as I just skimmed over it.

I looked at the wikipedia article on the Hades and the details seem to be sparse (It was only in service for four years).
 
some info here
.https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/hades-irbm-france.3122/#post-26635
 
I always figured that the final release line for French nukes was when the Soviets got within 30 minutes of the French border.
interesting idea. Is that 30 minutes for an SU24 strike or a forward Tank Regiment?
I suspect Paris had precise coordinates in West Germany for its Pluton launchers and the river Rhine would have been the trigger for them to deploy
 
interesting idea. Is that 30 minutes for an SU24 strike or a forward Tank Regiment?
I suspect Paris had precise coordinates in West Germany for its Pluton launchers and the river Rhine would have been the trigger for them to deploy
While that statement was for a Tank Regiment, It could also apply to Su24 strikes.

Half an hour being the rough time necessary for the launch orders to get from the issuer down to the launchers, plus prep time and missile flight time. (edited for ducking autocorrupt)
 
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Speculation: I wonder if one could have developed a ground launched variant of the air-sol moyenne portée (ASMP)?

I never thought of that, that's a good point and an interesting idea.
 
Maybe a ground launched Storm Shadow / Scalp is more feasible.... ASMP probably needs a much bigger booster to get that ramjet to start .....
 
ASMP probably needs a much bigger booster to get that ramjet to start

It might not need that much of a big booster, why? Well keep in mind that it already has an integral launch-booster which uses the ramjet as the booster's casing and has a jettisonable nozzle.
 
It might not need that much of a big booster, why? Well keep in mind that it already has an integral launch-booster which uses the ramjet as the booster's casing and has a jettisonable nozzle.
It's losing several hundred kph from being surface launched, plus the entire type of rocket tends to be different between surface launch and air launch.

Edit: Surface launch boosters tend to have higher thrust even if that means they burn out faster, while air launch boosters will have less thrust but over a longer burn time.
 
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It's losing several hundred kph from being surface launched, plus the entire type of rocket tends to be different between surface launch and air launch.

What I mean is that the ASMP already has a builtin booster for air-launch so a ground launched version would only need an additional booster to get it up off the ground and to about Mach 1 where the ASMP's integral booster could takeover boosting it to ramjet transition speed (Basically a two-stage booster system).
 
ASMP integrated booster is sized to work in the thinner air for air launch, so for ground launch, it probably has less margin for successful ramjet ignition at lower altitudes .....
 
ASMP integrated booster is sized to work in the thinner air for air launch, so for ground launch, it probably has less margin for successful ramjet ignition at lower altitudes .....

Good point! What was typical launch speed for the ASMP?
 
The Mirage 2000N uses the Electronic Serge Dassault (now Thales) Antilope 5 radar, which when operating in the groundmapping mode, provides the target coordinates for the ASMP and _ feeds guidance information to the missile’s inertial navigator. The initial boost after launch is provided by an integral solidpropellant motor, which is fired after the missile has dropped a safe distance from the launch aircraft. This motor accelerates the missile from its minimal launch speed of MO.6 to about M2.0 in 5 seconds. The complete combustion of the — solid propellant is a critical phase in the transition from boost motor to ramjet as the booster cartridge has to be ejected out of the ramjet through its exhaust nozzle within a fraction of a second while the ramjet inlets open. Kerosene is supplied to the ramjet engine, which features a swirltype combustion chamber, by pressurised tanks before start-up takes place. The missile cruises at high level (10 km) at M3.0, and at low level at M2.0. The ASMP is credited with a range of 250 km when launched from a high altitude, but low level launch is limited to 80 km range.
 
Nuclear weapons are treated as "silver bullets", and used to justify the smaller, more high tech military .....
 
-Pluton was short range and slooooow reaction time. Although it was mobile.
-HADES almost replaced it by 1991 but was gutted after the end of Cold War
-Pluto was the Armée de Terre tactical nuke.
-Same warhead as the AN-52 carried by Jaguars and Mirage IIIE: also tactical weapons
-A ground launch ASMP ? how about this ? X-422, 1967
http://www.crash-aerien.aero/pictures/640-5149_f8c3899422ae6bb2a09ad2ab66f24448.jpg

-De Gaulle message to the Soviets "we can kill 80 millions of you with the force de frappe. Of course you have enough nukes to vitrify 800 million frenchs... bad luck, that's overkill. Bottom line: don't mess we us."

-France would bet on NATO stopping the Soviets in West Germany. We would only drop a tac nuke in a situation similar to
- 1870, September in Sedan (can't stop the ennemy, Paris and the war are toast)
- 1914, on the Marne (barely stopped the ennemy and saved Paris - by an hairbreadth)
- 1940, Ay 15, Sedan (see 1870 above)
If the Soviets created a Sedan-like situtation on the Rhine, we would tac nuke their bridgehead. Three times in barely 70 years was enough.
 
interesting idea. Is that 30 minutes for an SU24 strike or a forward Tank Regiment?
I suspect Paris had precise coordinates in West Germany for its Pluton launchers and the river Rhine would have been the trigger for them to deploy

Sedan-on-the-Rhine. 1940 had been a bloody fucking trauma. Don't forget that De Gaulle had fought in Montcornet to try and repair the Sedan disaster. He knew first hand about an ennemy armored columns roaring free on the national territory.
He also knew first hand why aerial tactical nuclear strikes mattered.
When the Germans broke out in Sedan, the AdA exactly had 27 modern bombers to try and stop them. Most of them LeO-451 not cut for low level day strike.
They had to send antiquated Amiot 143 bombers to bolster the numbers. And Farmans at night.
The British went all out with plentiful Battles and Blenheim and achieved nothing.
You can bet that De Gaulle must have thought at some point "Tactical nukes ? wish we had three of them around Sedan on May 14, 1940.

The seven panzer divisions that disintegrated Corap and Huntziger 2nd and 9th Armies were in three groups: 2+3+2, in three corridors centered around Sedan: a 100 km wide corridor.
Personal story: my maternal grandfather was a radio at the rear of a tank unit. His unit crossed into Belgium as far as Dinant & Philippeville only to be steamrolled by the panzers. Now they only had to retreat across the 100 km wide corridor: north to south. With the panzers coming like a truck on the highway: East (Sedan) to West (Abbeville and the atlantic coast they touched down on May 19, closing the Dunkirk pocket).
My grandfather escaped capture by some miracle, but they were straffed and bombed by the LW clearing the path of the Panzer divisions: Rommel and Guderian charge.
De Gaulle 4eme DCR was ordered to attack the south flank, not to stop the invasion but to get more distance between the corridor and Paris, with the 6th army of Touchon moving to protect Paris - did not worked three weeks later, on June 8.
 
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Which also gets into just how important France sees their nuclear arsenal, as the French Army was just not big enough to stop the Soviet horde.

Well the entire NATO combined armies were not enough, or so it seemed... and there was the very real risk of escalating to nuclear and blowing the planet - whoever dropped the first nuke.

At the end of Cold War most of the nuke forces were disbanded, minus the SLBM. Plateau d'Albion, tactical nukes all were retired. Besides the submarines only ASMP was left with a peculiar role.
Called pre-strategic, it is kind of middleground between tac nukes and SLBMs.

The gist of the idea: ASMPs on Super Etendard, Mirages (and Rafales nowadays) have a man in the loop and can be called back. They are also very visible on their air bases... or aircraft carrier. This is used to send a message to an ennemy. Missiles on silos or submarines are not visible enough. And we no longer need tac nuke over Germany.

Today France had a luxury of strike systems: nuclear or not.

-Tigres on Mistrals (think Lybia)
-Scalps on Rafales (AdA & CdG)
-Scalps on frigates
-Scalps on submarines
...
-ASMP-A on AdA Rafales
-ASMP-A on CdG Rafales
-SLBMs

All seven strike combinations have different degrees of visibility. Nuclear or not.
 
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Well the entire NATO combined armies were not enough, or so it seemed... and there was the very real risk of escalating to nuclear and blowing the planet - whoever dropped the first nuke.
Just a reminder of the military thinking in the seventies , as seen from France:
  • Should WARPAC launch a total conventional offensive, one big goal of the whole western armies (NATO + FR) was to prevent the Soviet hordes from reaching Brest "for at least one week." So that US reinforcements by boat could arrive and prevent total victory, like in early Korean war.
  • The 1st French army on the Rhine and their engins Gillois where tasked with keeping pontoon bridges across Rhine open, ... for a whole whopping three hours each before they were expected to be sunk or over-run.
  • In conjunction with the nukes: in case of successful Soviet penetration (through Bundeswehr and Nato forces, towards our border), the real role of 1st army was to slow down the Soviet progression and create a "traffic jam concentration", onto which the tac nukes would be launched as a last attempt before going total Armageddon with plateau d'Albion and SSBN strategic missiles.
Contrary to today's politikorrekt narratives, the reality then was of Soviet totally aggressive posture and near-certainty to win the frontal battle, against western democracies struggling to finance a deterrent that would make the victory exhorbitantly expensive enough. All the while being sabotaged by their own internal "useful idiots", as Stalin called them, who would create mayhem against the deployment of any new weapon (Honest John, Lance, etc).

Pluton and later Hades were the last ditch tools to "sanctuarize the national territory", by the official parlance then. Hades was later jettisoned by politicians who wanted a "peace dividend" when WARPAC collapsed.
We can't even kick their butts today, those poly-ticks are long dead.
 
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Thank you all for really giving us depth on this thread. It is a subject not covered so well anywhere online.

Would be fascinating to hear from anyone who served with a Pluton regiment.
 
The gist of the idea: ASMPs on Super Etendard, Mirages (and Rafales nowadays) have a man in the loop and can be called back. They are also very visible on their air bases... or aircraft carrier. This is used to send a message to an ennemy. Missiles on silos or submarines are not visible enough.
Yes, that's why the US still keeps nuclear bombers. They make a very useful message, and have the longest "time to recall" of any strategic weapons system.


And we no longer need tac nuke over Germany.
Now you need them over Poland...
 
All seven strike combinations have different degrees of visibility. Nuclear or not.
It looks increasingly likely that they are going to need land based nuclear systems once again, both tactical and strategic.
 
For one thing, Boomers can always be ambushed, more so if you have a limited number of them. Always have more than one string to your bow.
 
Don't think a land-based portion is needed, especially given the last 50 years of improving warhead accuracy, and the shift of NATO eastwards.

If SSBNs were increasingly vulnerable, a larger number should enable more on patrol with less of a chance of the deployed deterrent being sunk.
 
They don't all have to be in hardened silos, France designed a missile not too dissimilar to the Midgetman just before the end of the Cold War, for example.
road-mobile nukes means a very large escort convoy, and is only somewhat effective when the country has large chunks of land that the vehicles can go to ground in.

And no European country has that much unoccupied land.
 
More than one way to skin a cat. Disguised TELs for example. Missile trains for another.
 

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