Chirac's nuclear threat not just big words

20th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

ILE LONGUE MILITARY BASE, France, Jan 19, 2006 (AFP) - If President Jacques Chirac ever carried out his implicit threat to strike countries sponsoring terrorist attacks against France, the results would be devastating to say the least.

ILE LONGUE MILITARY BASE, France, Jan 19, 2006 (AFP) - If President Jacques Chirac ever carried out his implicit threat to strike countries sponsoring terrorist attacks against France, the results would be devastating to say the least.

France's stockpile of atomic weapons, built up during the Cold War independently of the other nuclear-armed states, is composed of strategic missiles designed with a view to deterrence. That means that they are so destructive that no rational enemy would choose to provoke their use.

As far as is known, France does not possess battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons, which could be used on a more limited scale.

The total number of strategic warheads that France possesses is classified as a military secret, but it is widely believed to be between 200 and 300.

In the event of a conflict, they would be fired from nuclear submarines or from aircraft, or both. The country no longer has nuclear missiles based in silos on land.

At any one time the French navy has one of its four strategic nuclear submarines, equipped with operational nuclear missiles, at sea. They operate from the Ile Longue base in Brittanny where Chirac made his speech on Thursday.

Each nuclear-armed submarine carries 16 M-45 missiles, which are due to be replaced from 2010 by the new M-51 projectile, with a range of 8,000km.

The nuclear deterrent is also based on Super Etendard aircraft equipped with air-to-ground missiles. They can operate either from the nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle or from a hardened underground base in Taverny, near Paris.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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