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Closeup of the rear of the Rafale airframe and the two engine nozzles, Dassault Rafale - Paris Air Show. Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

French nuclear deterrence exercise a first in Auvergne

The French military is testing its nuclear deterrent force in Auvergne on Wednesday. Usually organized at night, this training operation will take place for the first time during the day.

Published: April 7, 2021, 12:02 pm

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    On Wednesday, April 7, several dozen French army planes will cross the sky of Auvergne. Objective stated: to test their nuclear deterrent force, reported regional daily La Montagne.

    According to sources, this is only a simple exercise and the Auvergnats will not be endangered in any way by Operation Poker. This is the name of the exercise carried out by the military forces. It is renewed four times each year by the Air Force and the Space Force. The military operation is usually carried out at night. But the health crisis has freed the skies of many of its civilian planes, and the army is therefore advancing its pawns, in order to test its nuclear strength in broad daylight.

    Nearly fifty planes (Rafales, A330 Phénix and C135 refueling planes, etc.) will thus take off from air bases from all over France, in order to reach the Auvergne region. The planes will fly at low altitude for nearly seven hours and will feign weapon fire. Operation Poker is designed to ensure that the Head of State has the certainty that he can count on his nuclear forces at all times. These maneuvers also offer the opportunity to train all the teams, in order to be operational at the right time. The nuclear deterrent force makes it possible to establish political and technical credibility in France, in order to best respond to an increasingly trained enemy force, sources said.

    President Macron has the key to the Jupiter Command Post, a structure in the bunker of the Élysée Palace. It is equipped with means of communication and protection to enable the French president and his advisers to manage crisis situations and to be in contact at all times with other government entities, military command posts and foreign governments.

    The bulk of the French deterrent is maritime based, with the Navy having responsibility for around 80 per cent of the nuclear arsenal. The French Air Force has two squadrons assigned to the nuclear role, comprising 40 Rafale F3 aircraft, equipped with 54 nuclear-armed medium-range ASMP-A cruise missiles. According to French sources, the Armée de l’air et de l’espace actually has 75 ASMP medium-range air-to-ground missiles with nuclear warheads at its disposal. The range of strike aircraft is extended currently by the KC-135 and in the future by the forthcoming Airbus A330 MRTT aerial refueling fleet.

    The French Nuclear Force, part of the French military, is the third largest nuclear-weapons force in the world, after the nuclear triads of the United States and the Russian Federation.

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