Rafale proves its capability to launch a nuclear-tipped missile

The Dassault Rafale, the pride of French combat aero engineering, has shown its capability to launch nuclear missiles. This Wednesday marked the first test launch of an upgraded ASMPA missile from a French Rafale fighter jet. Various sources reported that the test was a success. 

Rafale proves its capability to launch a nuclear-tipped missile
Photo credit: Twitter

The missile was fired over French territory during a training exercise and did not carry a warhead. It simulated a “nuclear airstrike,” according to sources. This missile modification is referred to as ASMPA-R. 

This test by France came just a day after Russia initiated nuclear drills in its Southern Military District, adjacent to Ukraine, including areas Moscow claims to have annexed. France plans to allocate about 13 percent of its military budget in the coming years to bolster its independent nuclear capabilities, including next-generation air-launched missile upgrades by 2035.

Rafale proves its capability to launch a nuclear-tipped missile ASMPA - Rafale
Photo credit: MBDA

ASMPA-R

The MBDA’s ASMPA-R missile, also known as the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée Amélioré-Rénové, represents a sophisticated upgrade over the original ASMPA. Developed for the French military, this advanced air-launched cruise missile has enhanced performance and extended operational capabilities. 

Measuring approximately 5.38 meters [17.7 feet] in length with a diameter of about 0.38 meters [1.25 feet], the ASMPA-R is compact enough to be deployed by various aircraft such as the Dassault Rafale and the Mirage 2000N

In terms of characteristics, the ASMPA-R excels in high-speed, low-altitude flight, making it a challenging target to detect and intercept. It features advanced guidance systems, including inertial navigation and GPS, ensuring pinpoint accuracy. Its stealthy design further boosts its survivability in hostile environments. 

Powered by a ramjet engine, the ASMPA-R achieves supersonic speeds, allowing it to cover great distances swiftly while maintaining maneuverability and evading enemy defenses. The ASMPA-R is versatile, and capable of carrying various types of warheads, including conventional high-explosive and nuclear options. This flexibility makes it suitable for a range of strategic and tactical operations, tailored to mission needs. With an operational range estimated at around 500 kilometers [310 miles], the ASMPA-R can strike deep into enemy territory, all while keeping the launch platform safely out of harm’s way.

Second carrier

The recent test marks a major milestone for French aviation. With this achievement, the Dassault Rafale joins the French Air Force’s Dassault Mirage 2000N as a nuclear-capable aircraft. This development significantly enhances French aviation capabilities, providing a critical additional option. 

Dassault Mirage 2000-9 (Mk 2) multirole combat aircraft
Photo: Tactical Report

While the Mirage 2000N, similar to America’s F-22 Raptor, is designed for domestic use and is not available for export, it remains a critical asset. Current data shows that France operates 64 units of this aircraft. 

In a separate post on X, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu praised “all the forces, [defense] ministry teams, and industrial partners involved” in what he described as a “long-planned” operation. Lecornu emphasized that this drill’s aim is to maintain “the credibility of the airborne nuclear element of deterrence” in conjunction with France’s submarine-launched weapons.

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