France’s nuclear missile tests send credible deterrence messages to contenders

France tested the firepower capabilities of a recently-developed nuclear missile. The 11-hour missile testing drill involved the loading of France’s domestically developed Rafale fighter jets with nuclear missiles and the eventual hitting of virtual targets. The French Army did not disclose additional information about the location and date of the missile test.

The recent testing concurs with the suspension of INF Treaty provisions by Moscow and Washington on Monday. The missile drill was seen as a projection of France’s deterrence capabilities at a time when a new nuclear arms race between Russia and the U.S. looms in the horizon and uncertainty remains over the nuclear capabilities of North Korean and Iranian ballistic missile systems.

France is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and one of the nuclear superpowers in the international political scene. As a heavy spender on defence budgets, Paris devotes approximately €3.5 billion per annum on maintenance works for its nuclear arsenal. The French government has recently pledged to initiate a nuclear arsenal modernisation programme expected to reach €5 billion by 2020. France currently possess 300 nuclear warheads which can be easily loaded in submarines and Rafale aircrafts. The recent missile test is seen as one of the repercussions emerging from the progressive abolition of the INF Treaty’s provisions.

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