Just days after first the United States and then Russia announced they would abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (or INF), which for decades had kept Europe free of the threat of intermediate-range nuclear weapons, on Monday the French Air Force successfully conducted a nuclear strike mission, sending aircraft on an 11-hour mission to sneak a nuclear-capable cruise missile through simulated enemy air defenses and nail it into the sands of a test range south of Bordeaux, Defense News reported.
The February 4 mission, which was billed by the Armed Forces Ministry of the NATO member as “operation-representative,” featured a Rafale fighter jet releasing an MBDA made ASMP-A missile. Officials designed the drill to include “all phases characteristic of a nuclear-dissuasion mission,” including successive refueling by C-135 and A-330 tankers before aiming the missile – without a nuclear warhead – at a missile test area near the town of Biscarrosse.
“This success reinforces the technical and operational credibility of the deterrence that the airborne component has continuously maintained through the Air Force since 1964,” read an Armed Forces Ministry statement from Feb. 5.
Besides its aerial deterrence leg – which was on full display this Monday and supposedly meant to send a clear signal to the Kremlin even though it was the Trump administration which started the latest nuclear arms race by first pulling out of the INF – the French military has submarines capable of firing nuclear-tipped missiles.
Amusingly, in an effort to counter the appearance of a retaliatory move aimed at Russia which will any minute conduct its own nuclear strike test, and so on as the new Cold War escalates in tit-for-tat fashion, the French ministry statement stressed that the test mission had been long planned.