THE FRENCH NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM

Created: 7/24/1963

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

CVEE FCK HE-EASE

SPECIAL

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

The French Nuclear Weapons Program

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE

DISCUSSION

I. CURRENT STATUS AND FUTURE PROGRAM

Weapons

Systems

II. COST AND BURDEN TO THE FRENCHPOLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Gaulle's Justification for the Force de Frappe

Support for de Gaulle's Program

reactionuclear Test Ban

THE FRENCH NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM

THE PROBLEM

To estimate the present state and future pace of Frenchfor nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and theirImplications.

CONCLUSIONS

(Paras.)

B. At leastrance will be dependentelivery system consisting ofirage IV jet bombers, all of which are to be operational by the endperating aloneeparate national force and without highly sophisticated delivery tactics, this delivery system would be vulnerable to air defense measures which are already available to the Soviet Union, and would be even more vulnerable to the improved air defenses which the USSR will probably have by the endn the other hand, the Soviet Government probably will regard the Mirage

IVseaningful albeit small threat, because it must assumeew of these aircraft might penetrate its defenses.

is also underwayecond delivery systemof three nuclear submarines, which under Frenchto become operationalare to be armed withissiles each0e believe, however, that the firstfiring nuclear submarine will become fullythe earliestnd possibly even later.

cost of the force de frappe is high and has risenthan the government expected several years ago, butFrench capabilities. In addition to the strategicthe French alsoarge-scale modernization ofarms and equipment, and have indicated thatnot intend total military spending to rise above itsof gross national product. The growth of the economybe sufficient to support all these objectives,military expenditures may cause some strains. Asde Gaulle is in power, the French Government willcontinue its nuclear weapons program, and willsacrifices are necessary in other military orIf it became necessary, the French wouldout spending on the modernization of conventionalthan hold down outlays on the nuclear)

Gaulle regards the force de frappe as having aon the Soviet Union, as enhancing French leadershipEurope, and as making Western Europe moreof the US. We believe de Gaulle will not submitweapons to any form of NATO control. Frenchhave recently argued with increasing frequency thatde frappe should be regardedirst step toward anuclear deterrent. The idea of an eventualnot under US control has adherents in Europeanare otherwise opposed to de Gaulle. In theEuropean political association in the next several years.

GaulUst intirnations that the force de frappe could serve as the nucleusuropean deterrent will probably be intended to induce an increasing number of Europeans to favor forms of political ties among European states which enhance de Gaulle's position.

SECRET

discussion

I. CURRENT STATUS AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS OF FRENCH PROGRAM

A. Nucleor Weapons

'OeTpTe'sent plans, France will have7 only]

he French will not be able to producehen they expect the gaseous diffusion plant under construction at Pierrelatte to be completed. This plant originally was to have begun producing weapon-grade materialut technical difficulties have delayed the completion date by (our years.

SECRET

hermonuclear weapons would of course make de Gaulle's force de tmj/pe more impressive, and we believe he intends to produce them.

5

hows estimated

cumulative production of fissionable material from these sources, and also the larger production of plutonium potentially available for weapons if the maximum attainable from Chinon is included.

G.

These weapons

WoUId.OUrSe, be far in excess of those needed for the strategic delivery systems now planned.

French plans also call for production of tacticalfor cite ground forces beginninge have noon the types or quantity of tactical weapons planned, but theof fissionable material is not likely to be the limiting factormodest production of such weapons.

B. Delivery Systems

France is planning two strategic delivery systems for the next decade. The first system will consist ofirage IV jethis aircraftross weight of0 pounds.ull payloadounds, the plane has an operational radius of. without refueling. with one refueling. To achieve these operational radii, the Mirage IV would have to fly most of the way at altitudes00 feet andruising speed of, with only one high speed dash ofiles atower altitudes or prolonged supersonic speeds "would cut the aircraft's operational radius drastically.

The French Air Force will begin receiving production models of the Mirage IV by the endnd we believe that full operational status of the planned force will be achieved as scheduled by the endor refueling purposes, France has orderedanker aircraft from the US, with delivery to begin this year. The French could extend the operailonal radius of the Mirage IV weapons systems somewhat bytand-off air-to-surface missile.

upplement to the Mirage TVs, the French Navy has proposed thattendard IV subsonic tactical bombers assigned to aircraft carriers be modified so that they can carry nuclear bombs. Thehas so far not allocated funds for this purpose, and may never do so because of budgetary considerations and the marginal strategic value of these relatively slow aircraft.

Operating aloneeparate national force and without highly sophisticated delivery tactics, the French aircraft delivery system would be vulnerable to air defense measures which are already available to the Soviet Union, and would be even more vulnerable to the Improved air defenses which the USSR will probably have by the endn the other hand, and despite Its protestations to the contrary, the Soviet

'Recent reports Indicate that French plansotal inventory ofirage IV bombers, not an operational forceomeircraft apparently arc to be kept optraUonal at all times, the remainder being used for training or grounded for maintenance. If the French Government later decidesully operational force ofirage iVs. an Inventory of aboutircraft would be needed.

'ne-way, "no return" mission, and assuming the same altitudes and speeds as described here, the Mirage IV has an estimated maximum rangea.

SECRET

Government probably does regard the Mirage IVseaningful albeit small threat, because it must assumeew of these aircraft might penetrate its defenses.

rench plans callecond delivery system consisting of three ballistic missile nuclear submarines, each armed withissiles of0ange. The French have said that the first submarine should be operationalhe secondnd the thirdssuming that Pierrelatte startshe nuclear propulsion system for the first of these submarines should be ready on time. In addition, an acceptable rxeitton-ftacltng system for the submarine should be availabley the same year, the missiles for the system probably will also be ready for use. French research and design work on missiles appears to be of high caliber, and flight tests of. solid fuel submarine missile will probably beginhis missile will probablyarhead weighingounds.

ench-should

be able to developuidance system which would provide the

issileegree of accuracv_acceptable to -them.

While the French probably can, if they encounter no serious,difficulties, produce all the principal components of missile firing nuclear submarineshey will require more time to put the various parts together into an operational weapons system. Per-fecttng and testing the systemhole, as well as training personnel to man it, are complex and time-consuming tasks. We believe that the first French missile firing nuclear submarine will become fully operational at the earliestnd possibly even later. When the whole system does become fully operational, of course, it will pose much moreilitary threat to the Soviet Union than the Mirage IV bombers.

Recent French statements have indicated that the governmentand-based IRBM system in metropolitan Franceand Is not now planningystem. If during the next several years the French Government changes its policy In this respect orthat its schedule for the nuclear submarine missile system will in fact slip badly, however. It could deployand-based IRBM system for an Interim capability.

The French have already benefited considerably through their commercial purchases of components for their advanced weaponsIf the French obtained wide access to the classified technology of other nations which are ahead of them In nuclear weapons and

delivery systems, they could appreciably shorten the timetable as well as reduce the research costs of developing their nuclear strike force.

ii. cost and burden to the french economy

costs of the french nuclear program and weapons deliveryare high and have risen more rapidly than the governmentseveral years ago.6 france hasotal of5 billion on its nuclearncluding expenditures forpurposes. expenditures on the nuclear program will be more0 millionnd, if present trends continue, may reach9 billionhare of the french gross national product (gnp) in current market prices, expenditures on the nuclear program have grown fromercent0 to anercentnd, il present trends continue, may beercenthese outlays, although larger than originally expected, are almostwithin the capabilities of the french economy.6 the percent of gnp devoted to the french nuclear program will probably level off or even diminish if the economy continues to growairly rapidumber of major projects, including the expensivediffusion plant at pierrelatte (estimated2hould be completed6

not all the expenditures on the nuclear program are part of the cost of acquiring nuclear weapons. although more than one-third of5 billion spent2 was for exclusively military purposes, most of the balance represented joint costs of military and nonmllitary projects. these costs are not easily separated, but we estimate that at least two-thirds of the5 billion was associated with military aspects of the program. if this proportion continues, the cost ofaspects of the nuclear program will be0 millionill average0 million annually during the four year, and6 will be3 billion.

the probable cost of the delivery systems planned by the french is much less than that of the nuclear program. the cost of developing and producingirage tv jet bombers will be on the order0 million. to this must be addedillion for the purchase ofankers from the us. later modifications to the mirage iv,of electronic countermeasures equipment, and the addition of air-to-surface missiles could add0 million0 million. the cost of developing and producing the three nuclear-poweredmissile submarines should be5 toillion, exclusive of warheads.

dollar values used throughout this estimate are conversions from current french ttancsate ofrancs

SESRET

The cost of delivery systems will be spreadumber of years, but will be largestn very general terms, we believe that French expenditures on all aspects of the force de frappe (nuclearMirage IVs, missile and nuclear submarine development) have averaged00 million annually0ill average about $ltt billionillion annually3nd aboutillion to S3 billion annually7

It should be noted that our estimates of the costs of the French nuclear strike force arc substantially higher than those given by the French themselves. French Defense Minister Messmcr has indicated that expenditures on the force de frappe will amount only to aboutercent of the military budget0 millionnd will rise toercent of the military budget3 billion

We believe the French figures are low for several reasons, First, the government is facing domestic criticism of the cost of the force de frappe and inclines therefore to present conservative figures. Secondly, the French figures apparently cover only research and production costs, omitting operating expenses, and very probably associated equipment and support costs. Moreover It is almost certain that Messmer has not included the military share of that part of the nuclear program which has peaceful as well as military purposes. The authorizations for "the atom" in3 military budget would cover onlyercent of the estimated military share of the total costs of the nuclear programhe remainder will come from sources outside the military budget. Thirdly. French estimates may be lower than ours simply because the government does not yet have the experience with nuclear weapons systems to predict costs accurately. For example, the cost of the Pierre-latte gaseous diffusion plant has greatly exceeded the original French estimates because of unexpected technical problems.

In addition to the force de frappe. the Frencharge-scale modernization of their conventional arms and equipment. They have also indicated that in spite of an expected increase of0 million annually0 in the military budget, military spending Is not expected to rise above its present share of GNP. In each year8 the military budget has actually decreasedhare of GNP. There are signs that economic growth may slow down somewhat over the next few years, but the rate of increase probably will still be sufficient to support present objectives even though rising military expenditures may place some strains on the French economy.

long as de Gaulle is in power, the French Government willcontinue its nuclear weapons program, and will makearc necessary in other military or in the economic sectors.

We do not believe that mounting costs or problems of obsolescence will induce de Gaulle to abandon his program as the British abandoned the Blue Streak missile. If economies become necessary, the French will probably stretch out spending on the modernization of conventional forces rather than hold down outlays on the force de frappe.

III. POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS

A. De Gaulle's Justification for the Force de frappe

While the French started their nuclear weapons program several years before de Gaulle returned to powere has made it his own and has pushed it with vigor andrincipalin de Gaulle's mind for French possession of nuclear weapons is to strengthen the French position within the Western Alliance. The force de frappe is thus an integral part of French foreign policyis Western Europe and the us, as well as the USSR. De Gaulle regards developmentational nuclear forceajor means of enhancing his own leadership in Western Europe, and making Western Europe more independent of the US. He may even believe that US opposition to his plans strengthens his position in Europe, since It shows others that he can in fact actn addition, de Gaulle believes that the force de frappe, even though relatively small, will make future Soviet aggression against Western Europe less likely, by reducing the chance that the USSR might think it couldilitary success in Western Europe without nuclear war.

We believe that de Gaulle will insist on retaining national control of the force de frappe, although he has offered to "coordinate" its use with NATO. He might be willing to associate the force de frappe with some strictly European grouping, if he was convinced that he could thereby enhance materially his political leadership in Western Europe, and at the same time retain essential control of his nuclear weapons.

In justifying the force de frappe, Gaullist spokesmen have argued with increasing frequency of late that the French force should beas the first stepuropean nuclear deterrent. They have indicated that political relations in Europe have not yet reached the pointuropean nuclear force is feasible, but imply that France will use its own forceargaining tool to extend Frenchin any future negotiationsloser association of European nations. This portrayal of the French nuclear forceay-stationuropean deterrent is probably inactic of the Gaullists to stimulate domestic support for their program. We believe that de

"slCftET

Gaulle actually does regard his nuclear force, however, as one means of furthering, on his own terms and under his leadership, the political organization of Europe.

In attempting to develop increased support within France for the nuclear strike force, government spokesmen have also argued that the programig boost to French economic and scientificecent economic report preparedommittee of the FrenchAssembly claimed that the economic and scientific advances of Nazi Germany duringnd the US duringere directly related to the intense armament efforts of these countries. France, the report continued, mustomparable effort toits position in the world technological race. These sentiments are not yet widely accepted in France, but are likely toesponsive chord as they are repeated. Support of sustained or increased defense spending could easily spreadownturn should occur in civil sectors of the economy.

Inside France the force de frappe almost certainly has wideAll the Gaullist Justifications for the force which are described above are not accepted equally by the population, but their combined weight has clearly left the oppositioninority which has grown less effective in recent months. The continuing rise in the cost of the force de frappe may cause some increase ol opposition in coming years, but we expect such opposition to make little headway against theof the program and the increasingly strong support of military and business Interests.

After dc Gaulle's departure from the scene, any government led by the Gaullist party (the UNR) will almost certainly continue theweapons program.oalition successor governmentmembers of non-Gaullist parties in key positions (but excluding the Communists) would be unlikely to give up the program, although it might be somewhat more willing than de Gaulle to cooperate with other western nations in NATO.opular front, Socialist-Communistshould take over, French policies in this area would probably be substantially changed if not reversed.

B. European Support for de Gaulle's Program

in Western Europe, de Gaulle has not yet madein establishing himself as leader of Europe or his nationalfrappe as beneficial to Europe. Nevertheless, some of thefor the force given by the Gaulllsts have aroused sympathyIn Western Europe. Thereot inconsiderable elementuncertain that US nuclear power would be used in the event of aattack on Europe, or is at least uncertain that the Soviets would

estimate that the US would necessarily use its nuclear power in the event of an attack on Europe. This element would attach valuerench strike forcerigger mechanism which would increase the credibility of the US commitment to Europe,

In addition, the idea of an eventual European deterrent with no US Involvement has some adherents in other European countries. The recent emphasis by Gaullist spokesmen on the French programirst step in this direction may therefore make the French force more palatable in other countries. Most supportersuropean deterrent are firm advocates of an Integrated Europe allied with but independent of the US. They argue that to be independent Europe must some day have its own nuclear arms. Even such European integrationists and close friends of the US as Jean Monnet and Paul-Henri Spaak havesupport for this concept. For the present, most of these people disapprove of de Gaulle's proposalsoosely organized confederalof the Six with no supranational authority. They believe that there must be progress from the start toward supranational institutions, which would operate to limit the powers of individual national leaders such as de Gaulle. Gaullist intimations that the force de frappe could serve as the nucleusuropean deterrent are probably intended to induce other Europeans who wantorce to lessen theirto Gaullist leadership of Europe.

If de Gaulle does use his nuclear forceeans of developing support for the kind of European political association he wants, he will probably have as an additional important motive the desire to get economic or technical aid for the French program. With regard to both motives, the first country toward which De Gaulle might make an initiative is West Germany, the nation most able to provide meaningful aid to the French and the one with which de Gaulle believes it most important to have close relations. There have been reports and rumors that the French recently approached the West Germans for aid in the French nuclear weapons program. Our evidence is insufficient to corroborate these reports, and French and German officials have denied them. We believe that no cooperative program is now in existence. However, if the French encounter serious difficulties in their program, we believe they might seek German technical assistance, which they would probably consider of more Immediate benefit than financialWe do not believe that de Gaulle at this tune will give up any control over his force de frappe, but he might be willing to offer the Germans some limited degree of participation in the French program in return for aid.

One other element in de Gaulle's justification for the force de frappe has also aroused some sympathy throughout Western Europe.

This is the alleged impetus to the economyountry which derives from research and production of nuclear and other advanced weapons. Although Prance is the only nation of the Western Alliance where this concept is publicly extolled, it has some support elsewhere. EvenSpaak has stated that without the force de frappe important avenues of progress in certain scientific and industrial fields would be closed to the French, and that this to some extent justifies the French program.

C. French Reactionuclear Test Ban

e do not believeoviet-US-UK nuclear test banwould affect the development of the French nuclear weaponsas described in this estimate. France would almost certainly not sign such an agreement at least untilime as it had awarhead for medium range missiles. Even though de Gaulle were subjected to intense political and propaganda pressures fromSoviet Bloc, and neutral powers, he would almost certainly not be deterred from atmospheric testing in order tohermonucleart is possible that if de Gaulle were given complete designs and materials forhermonuclear warhead, he might yield to pressures forest ban agreement. However, de Gaulle is almost certainly as Interested in the political effects of being knownhermonuclear power as in the military significance of the weapons. He would be reluctant to forego the test which would demonstrate that he hadhermonuclear weapon.

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