France is going to arm its jet fighters with a nuclear hypersonic cruise missile – Technology Org

Did you know that the French fighter jet Dassault Rafale can carry nuclear weapons? The ASMP was developed specifically for fighter jets and has been in service since 1986. While this class of “pre-strategic” weapon is still quite powerful, in the French military doctrine it is meant to serve as the last warning before a full-scale strategic weapon is used.

French Dassault Rafale manufacturer.

French Dassault Rafale manufacturer. Image credit: Airwolfhound via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

France always had these smaller nuclear weapons. Many countries would consider them tactical, but France regards them as “pre-strategic”.

The ASMP entered service in May 1986 and replaced the earlier free-fall AN-22 bomb. The range of the ASMP is somewhere between 80-300 km, it covers that distance at a speed of Mach 2-3. This “last warning” missile has a variable-yield warhead, which produces an explosion measuring between 100 and 300 kilotons of TNT.

In comparison, the Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 was as powerful as 15 kilotons of TNT. However, one submarine-launched M51 missile carries 6-10 TN 75 warheads, which are 110 kilotons of TNT each.

The upgraded version of the ASMP, called ASMP-A, entered service in 2009. Its range is about 500 km and it reaches a speed of Mach 3. It also has a thermonuclear warhead delivering a blow equivalent to 300 kilotons of TNT. 54 ASMP-A have been delivered to the French air force and it is still a fairly new weapon.

In 2016 France started developing the ASMPA-R missie, which has as powerful of a warhead, but with a longer range. But we can go faster than that.

A mock-up of an ASMP-A nuclear cruise missile.

A mock-up of an ASMP-A nuclear cruise missile. Image credit: Thomas Boucajay via Wikimedia (CC BY-3.0)

The ASN4G is another upgrade to this missile. This project will see the ASN4G The missile reaches hypersonic speed thanks to a scramjet engine. In short, this type of engine takes advantage of combustion that takes place in supersonic airflow.

Scramjets are basically a must for missiles to reach hypersonic speeds. And the ASN4G is aimed to travel at a high supersonic (Mach 4–5) or hypersonic flight (Mach 7–8) pace.

Furthermore, France sees the range of the previous missiles as insufficient, because of the advancements of modern air defenses. That is why the ASN4G should be capable of reaching targets 1,000 km away. It will be launched from a French Dassault Rafale fighter jet.

It is interesting that France is attaching Dassault Rafale for this programme. While it’s an impressive fourth-generation twin-engine fighter jet, it doesn’t have any stealth capabilities. This means that the enemy would be able to spot a jet coming towards it with such a powerful weapon. That is also why the missile has a range of 1,000 km. More than anything it is a means of deterrence.

Sources: Defense-ua.com , Wikipedia


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