Created: 11/18/1964

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The French Advanced Weapons Program x

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The French Advanced Weapons Program









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ie french willeries ol underground sahara in4 aimed at developing thermonuclear techniques. these tests could provide the french with anto claim that theythermonucleartmospheric testing at the pacific test site will probably begin

rench production ol fissionable materials

will be sufficient to meet anticipated mililary requirements.

b. the first french strategic delivery system is based on the mirageet bomber. the french air force now hasoeen mirage lv-as: the remainder of the planned force ofrobably will be delivered by the end

such missiles could

be deployed somewhat earlier in soft sites with fission warheads of lesser yield.

c. the french submarine-missile force is to consist of three to five nuclear submarines, each armed with. missiles. the first missile launching submarine is not likely to


The costthe French nuclear weapons program now accountsittle over one percent of France's CNP. and may absorb about two percent in the. Overall, military expenditures are about five am! one-half percent of GN'P. There are strong political pressures on the governmentold down (lie military burden on the economy, but we Iwlicvc that de Gaulle will do what is economically and politically necessary to keep the French nuclear weapons program close toost-de Gaulle government might slow down the program, bul we do not believe that domestic pressures to limit military expenditures would cause any likely successor government to abandon or ail il back drastically. }





A. Nuclear Weapons

1 tests, and further tests aie scheduled hcgiii-

jThe French aie nowosition to expand their

L While the French started their nuclear weapons program several yc before dc Gaulle returned to power inie Im* made it his own. He regards the possession of nuclear weapons as an essential attribute of great power status, and as an indispensable underpinning of an independent French foreign policy. France has conducted ning later this year.'

fission weapons program ami to begin development of thermonuclear weapons.

France has access tn sufficient uranium to meet the needs of its nuclear research, power, and weapons programs for theoealile dilute. Deposits of economically recoverable uranium in metropolitan France are estimated to contain al0 metric Ions of natural uranium. In addition, France bus access to sizable uranium reserves in former French African territories, principally in the Malagasy Hcpublic and Gabon. To uonverve dumevticFrance imports uranium from South Alriea and elsewhere to meet much of its current needs. At present, the French are extractingetric tons of natural uranium annually. This exceeds current requirements, and therefore allows some stockpiling against increased consumption in tbe.

Two main fissionable materials, plutonium and, arefrom natural uranium for nuclear weapons use. At present onlyis available to the French for weapons use. The Marcoule* reactor complex includes three natiual uranium-graphite reactors. It has been in operation lor several years and is devoted to the production ol plutonium fot

he French are constructing three other natural uranium-graph ite reactors near Chinon as part of their electric power program. These leaclors will also produce plutonium, |

warheads for short-ranPe missiles fur me"round forces. 1

Tlie French arc building nuclear lest facilities in the Tuamolu Archipelago, southeast of Tahiti, in the Pacific. The first tests at this new facility, the Centre d'Fxperiiiieiitalioiis du Pacifiquc. arc now plannedifi, hul we cannotthe possibility that testing may begin thereonstruction at this site is progressing rapidly and on schedule.

9 Under tlie terms of its present agreemenl with Algeria, France cannndergiouiiil nuclear teals in the Sahara throught appears likely that the French have decided to begin tests there involving thermonuclear reactions liefoie iheir Pacific test center is ready.


B. Delivery Systems


he French aretrategic delivery system based on the .Miiageet bomber, of which Ihe French Air Force now hasozen. Current plans call for production of two aircraft per month, and by the endB, the French Air Force is scheduled tootal ofirage IV typehe nominal operating radius of the Mirages. without refueling. with Oneor refueling purposes, France has twelveet tanker aircraft recently purchased fiom ihe US, and may seek to buy additional tankers.

U. The French have encountered difficulties with the jel engines installed in the first pioduction models oF the Mirage IV. For future models they may be considering an advanced Piatt and Whitney engiuc. of which they abeady have bought two for experimental use with their newest tactical aircraft. However, this engine is larger than the one iued in Ihe French bomher. It would be very difficult to retiofit existing Mirage IVs with this engine, and considerable redesigning would be required to fit the engine into future production models. This engine would, however, improve the perlorinincc charactcrislics of the Mirage IV. particularly its operational radius.

' Tin' calculated operating xtdk of aiu.i't sue deiiendent ud mil, fmfuivattituuVi. |KiytosKl, and iped, mm! vary omnikrably with Uie condition* of oprratiOn wlilch <irchp Hgoii* given above for tbe Mb si goavload) pounds, flight altitude*0iuitingofnd One IhrIi qxed dudn. at. LotwOr prolonged miperwinic spct'-ls would cut tlw aircraft'^diiu dintliinlly.

The Mirage IV system pasesimited threat to ibeeparate national force, the French Mirage IVs would bo vulnerable to the present Soviet and East European air defense system, and even more vulnerable to the air defense system whieb the USSR will probably have by tbe endcveiiheless, tlie Soviet leaders must take account of the Mirage IV system became they cannot assume that none would be able to penetrate Iheir defenses.

Tlie French have considered various methods to Improve the effectiveness of the Mirage IV delivery vyslein. Apparenlly,3 ihe governmentthento redesign the Mirage IVuch larger aircraft with improved performance- including greatei range. The French are also looking into the possibility of developing an air-to-snrfaee missile for the Mirage IV. The relatively light payluad ul the aircraft, however, would requiie the use of missiles of such shoit range as tn have only limited additional value.

For Iheir tactical aircraft system the French apparently intend toonuclear capability foi the Mirage III series. These aircraft have relatively short range, maximum speeds of Machnd weigh0 pounds. The French are also well advanced in the development of both shorl-takeoil-and-landing and vcrncal-takcoff-and-landing aircraft, and probably will be able to develop and produce them in substantial numberslr-to-surface missiles being developed by the French with the British and Westespectlvcly will be used on those aircraft as weapons.

fond-Based ond Submorme-lounched IRBMs

second generation delivery system, according to Frenchwas to have been submarine-launched intermediate range ballisticTlie French now plan to deployand-based IRBM system Is included in the Program Law, now before thewhich outlines military plans for the. Anof the limitations o( the Mirage IV system,esire to havemeaningful deterrent before tbe nuclear Submarine System isprolwibly pushed the French Government into this decision inwareness that considerable internal opposition may arise.

land-based 1HBM missiles which 'be French are planning willsolid fuel vehicles,ange of up. and willwaihead ofounds. Available evidence indicates that theto use hard and dispersed sites, and hope to be able to depli>yIRUMs in such sites by Ihe end. However, we believe thatnot likelyble to deploy Iheir firsl missiles In hard sites beforethe silo program is apparently not yet beyond the planning stage. Definite


decisions probably have nut even bwi made on tlie specific locations of the silos. While such missiles could be deployed somewhat earlier- In sofl sites, Ibe French seem at this rime set on iXKifinim* themselves to hard silos.

The French areissile test range at Bisearosse, on tbe Atlantic coast soulh of Bordeaux in the department oi Landes. Tbey have staled that flight tests oi their IKBMs will begin at tbe Landes test center ine believe that this schedule will probably be mel, ami thai with further testing the missile themselves cOukl be ready about two years later. The French also intend to build in the next severalaunch facility in French Guiana, but our evidence indicates that it will be used for the launching ol earth satellites and for other space researchnd notilitary missile test installation. Experience gained in French Guiana, of course, will be relevant to the French military missile program.

Tho nuclear submarine-ballistic missile delivery system planned by Ihe French is to consist of three, and perhaps eventually five, submarines. Each is to be armed withun. missiles, which will be of smallertitan the planned land-based IltBMs. Hie warhead weight of themissile will probably lie no moreound'. The announced specifications of the first nuclear submarine are as follows:

Displacement length

Number ol torpedoof missilesof crew

ons (surface)

ons (submerged)






French have also announced that the will be "more0 feet) ting depth ol the submarine

IH Inhe Frenchonventionally powered submarine with four missile tuhes installed. Tbey plan to use this submarine to test the I'olaris-lype missile system later in the decade At Cadarache they have beenrototype nuclear propulsion unit lot their submarine- The reactor for the piopulsion unit is of tlie enriched urai.ium-prcssuriy.ed water type. It went critical during the summer


The French now say thai the firsl submarineperationalith the second and third to follow in the early years of Ihc next decade. The French probably can produce all the componentsissile firing nuclear submarine systemowever, given the complexities of putting this weapons system together, perfecting and testing it. and training personnel to man it. we believe it will be at0 before the first such submarine becomes fully operational. All three submarines will probably be operationaliven likely maintenance and upkeep cycles. France will probably be able lo keep each submarine at sea about two-thirds nl the time. When threeare available, two of them2 missiles) could be at sea most of the time. With live submarines, at least throe, and sometimes four, wouldbe at sea. In tbe early years of operation, it is to be expected tlintwith the system will degiade these figures.

When operational, the French submarine-launched and land-based missiles willonsiderable force.ange. Ihe land-based missiles could hit most Soviet territory west of the Urals, and the submarine missiles wmddimilar capability from Iheir most likely launchinghe eastern Mediterranean and the Norwegian Sea. The guidance systems of French missiles and ihe posit ion-finding equipment of French nuclearwill probably be less accurate than comparable US equipment. Tlie force, however, has been described by the French as consisting ofeapons which do nol require the accuracy necessary lo hit an enemy's strategic military installations.

Other Possible Delivery Systems

Wc do not believe that Ihe French have definite plans for strategic delivery systems beyond Ihose described. Some evidence suggests that they aretbe developmentand-mobile MRBM/IKBM system some time in tbe future, but we believe that little beyond feasibility studies has lieen undertaken to date. In addition, some French air force leaders have expressed the view that more advanced strategic aircraft with long range air-to-surface missiles should be developed in the future. Neither of these delivery svslems could probably become operational before (be, even if tbe French should decide in the near future to develop them.

French military spokesmen have also indicated interest in eventually acquiring surface-to-surface missiles ol less than IRItM range, Including tactical missile systems.

The missile willayloud ofounds, and will be capable of carryinguclear warheadiigh-explosivc warhead. Series prnduelion was to have begun inut this now appears unlikely until well




e eiilmale (he coats nf the French advanced weapons program as follows:


(in millions ft dollars calculated from the- cwrtnt ran-rench (rami to (he dollar)

Typs or Activity (Fwe-Yearwrapom and tirvrloiiiixMit ol nuclear pii'j"ihiin

Mirage IV .ilfcrsft system

Land-bued inixtile mtrots

Submarine* *ndsystem/"

TOTALS (Rounded I

Seet- wldllkmal iHaih on thr emto i*emit twitfrsni

Theresnrtry spending about Bve and one-hnlf percent of their gross nation il product (in market prices) (or military purposes Snrm-vvrut mote then one pcscceil is devoted to nuclear weapons and dWrvrry systems. Under present plans this will probiMy increase to about two petcent of GNP in the. assuming that die economy cifundi at about pmail annual latrs Numerous French nttibase staled diuutg ibr |utt yrar that totaliidlng is to remain at Hie present proportion of CNP. Il Itthis would severely limit conventional military expenditures. The French have already cm lulled programs to modernize their conventional forces, and ihey will be Imced Into further cutbacks if they cany out theli presently planned advanced weapons progiam without increasing the overall military burden on the economy.

The French economy is eipable of supporting ihr planned sea If of military expenditures, and indeed would be able to increase them, but such an increase would require difficult and. perhaps, risly political decisions. There are strongi.itolitical pressures on the governmriit to modernize thr antiquated and acutely inadrquatr school and hospital systems, the housing situation, and the rood net We beheve that so long as de Cm lieower, the government will do what is economically ami pnhtkaJry necessary Io kreji Hs nuclear weapon* program close to schedule. Another government might be morethan de GauBc to domestic pressures to limit military cxpcTidmires. and might thmn stretch out the program. We do not believe, Imwevei. Ihat such pressures would cause any likely smcccvmh government to abandon or cut It back drastsially.



be French nuclear weapons program has been and continues to be almost entirely.

i-'riiiib ileliM-iy syitcmsms could iik>v> fnrw,ir<: un Frnub bilitics alone, but to the extent that foreign technology and equipment

were denied, costs would increase and there would be delay.

Other Kuiopuan nations arc unlikely to provide direct assistance to the French nuclear weapons program. For several years there have boon rumors and reports thai lim French have approached the West Germans (or assistance in Ihe French program. Our evidence Is still not sufficient to corroborate either these reports or French and German denials of thec believe,ili.ii If such overtures have been made, the Ceimam. have rrjeHed ibem. There have also been occasional hints fiom Gaullist sources that France would like some day to have all the Common Market countries associated with the Frendi nuclear force. However, we believe that these countries we and will remain unwilling to participate in joint nuclear weapons program* tilth the French whkh are independent of NATO and not arranged in dote comultatioii with the US, unless there are fundamental changes in thr present Western security system.

Theifferent hi the case of the French missile program Partki-jiatiufi in the European Space Research OrganizationBO) and theLauncher Development Organizations given the French access to foreign technology. In addition, as already mentioned, the French havejointwith the West Germans and the British to develop short-range air-to-surface missiles. We believe that the French, If Ihey desire, will lie able lo organize other joint missile projects in the future. Such projects, while orienlod toward Ihe development of conventional weapon* at toward space research goals, would also add to French experience and capabilities fornuclear delivery systems.



Fignripuhlltltrd by (he French Coverniiwrit mi Ihe costs of In advanced weapons program are convMlrrably smaller than the figures which appear in tbe table in paragraphf this estimate. The French figures cover only those expenditures labelled tn tin- French budget as being for production and research for the nuclear forces Tbey do not include substantial expenditures onused Jointly for military and for peacefulhich ate allocated to France's peaceful nuclear program. We havecnlion of these cods in our table. We have also included some adininivti.illve and operating costs of ihe French advanced wessons program which tlie French luiw not so Identified. In addition, the French have sometimes deliberately understated the future costs of specific advanced weapons progiains, in order to blunt domestic criticism of the high cost of the nuclear force. We expect similar understatements to occur in the future. Furthermore, tlie underestimation of costs has lieen characteristic of advanced we* pum systems throughout the world It liegree not de-liberateroduct of tlie uncertainties of developing such systems.

We believe that expenses directly related to nuclear weapons andhave accountedillionV million, or at least two-thirds of Ihe total costs of France'i advanced weapons jwogram, in the five-yeai0uring this period, announced payments from the nuclear account of (he defense budget, for purposesirect military character, amounted to0 million. The military sharr in tbe (obit costs of other parts of the French nuclear program is estimated to be0 million. Additional expenditure's from tbe regular operating budgets of tbe French armed services associated with tlie development of nuclear weapons but not so identified may have amounted lo another hundred million dollars or inure.

For the future, we estimate that the nuclear aspects of Ihe French advanced weapons program will cent0 million0 million fur the six-year. Such costs will probably lie0 millionnd rise to0 million annually7 The57 trilleriod of very heavy expenditure, since they will include more0 million for the completion, testing, and start-up of tlie Pierrclatte gaseous diffusion plant, and0 million for completion of the nuclear test site in the PmiBc. After completion of these major projects, annualon the nucieai aspects of the advanced weapons program may decline, but we believe thev arc more likely to remainevel of0 million per year The cost of operating the newevelopment,


production and testingariety of high and low yield nuclear weapons; and further development of nuclear propulsion systems willontinued high level of spending.

Our estimates of costs for Ihe Mirage IV aircraft, land-based missile, and submarine-missile delivery systems are based principally on French budgetary information and Other statements ol French sources concerning the future costs of these systems. As in the case of our estimates on nuclear weapons, we have included additional expenditures from tlie operating budgets of the armedwhich arc associated with the development and operation of delivery Systems but are not so identified by the French. In contrast to the projected casts of the French nuclear weapons piogiam, we expect expenditures on delivery systems to rise continually from nowost of the Milage IV lype bombers are still to be produced and paid for, and the bulk ofon the land-based missile systems and tbe submarine-missile Svsleni is still to be made.


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