Force de frappe

From Academic Kids

The Force de frappe (French: Deterrence, literally Striking Force) is the designation of what used to be a triad of air, sea and land based French Nuclear Forces, part of the Military of France.

It was conceived in the 1960s by General de Gaulle, mainly as a means to ensure the safety of France vs. the USSR and its independence from NATO, which was considered dominated by the USA to an unacceptable degree. In particular, the risk that the United States could fail to come to the aid of its Western European allies should the USSR invade them was considered significant: the US, already embroiled in a foreign war in Vietnam, could hesitate to risk retaliation on its own homeland in order to save its European allies.

Initially, the force de frappe consisted of gravity bombs; the Mirage IV strategic bomber was designed so as to carry the bombs over the targets in the former Eastern bloc.

The land element contained the Pluton (missile) and the Hades (missile), mobile tactical and strategic missiles of limited range, designed to be launched at approaching Russian armies from the east. The Pluton missile was retired in 1993 and its successor the Hades was produced in limited numbers in the 1990s and placed in storage in 1992 (the last missile was dismantled on the 23rd of June 1997).

Since it was deemed that a full-scale Soviet invasion of Europe was unlikely to be stopped by conventional forces, these weapons were meant as a "warning shot" which would tell the enemy that further advance would trigger a full-scale nuclear attack on its main cities. This "worse-case" doctrine is called Stratégie du faible au fort ("Weak-to-strong strategy"); the idea behind is that a full-scale nuclear war would be lost by both opponents, and that a stronger opponent, having more to lose, will therefore refrain of proceeding further (like being the best boxer in a gunfight - see MAD).

France does not have active IRBMs anymore, the only IRBM base at the "Plateau d'Albion" (Vaucluse region) having been deactivated in 1996.

The other two long range elements of the triad are still operative. The navy has a nuclear ballistic submarine fleet made up of one SSBN Redoutable-class (L'Inflexible) and three SSBNs of the Triomphant-class (Le Triomphant, Le Temeraire, Le Vigilant). One additional SSBN's Le Triomphant class is under construction.

The air force has 60 Mirage 2000 NK2 long range fighter bombers carrying ASMP short-range attack missiles with nuclear warheads.

France has the fourth largest nuclear force in the world after the USA, Russia and China.

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