Nuclear Disarmament France

NPT Nuclear Weapon State

Arsenal Size

  • Active Nuclear Warheads: Estimated 300 total; approximately 290 operational and 10 spares. [1]
  • 240 (TN75) on SLBMs carried by SSBNs [2]
  • 20 (TNA) on medium-range air-to-surface cruise missiles carried by Mirage 2000N [3]
  • 20 (TNA) on medium-range air-to-surface cruise missiles carried by Rafale CF3: [4]
  • 10 (TNA) on medium-range air-to-surface cruise missiles carried by Rafale MF3 [5]

Key Delivery Systems


French Super-Etendard aircraft from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, French navy ship Charles de Gaulle (R 91), www.defenseimagery.mil

  • SLBMs (M45 and M51.1) carried by SSBNs. France is currently in the process of replacing the M45 with the M51.1; the overhaul is set to be completed by 2019. [6]
  • Medium-range air-to-surface cruise missiles (ASMPA) on Mirage 2000N, Rafale F3, and Rafale MF3 aircraft. [7]

Estimated Destructive Power

Military Fissile Material Stockpiles (estimates)

Disarmament and Commitments to Reduce Arsenal Size

  • Legal obligation to pursue global disarmament under Article VI of the NPT. [11]
  • Then-President Chirac's new nuclear plans for 1997 to 2002, announced in February 1996, resulted in dismantling several weapon systems. [12]
  • Reduced its nuclear arsenal by half in the last 10 years. [13]
  • No nuclear weapons in reserve. [14]
  • Cessation of plutonium production in 1992, and of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons in 1996. [15]
  • Finished decommissioning the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment facility and intends to decommission its Maroule reprocessing facility by 2035. [16]
  • Completely dismantled its ground-to-ground nuclear component by 2008. [17]
  • Voluntarily reduced the number of its missile launching nuclear submarines in service by one-third. [18]
  • In his speech on February 19, 2015 French President Hollande announced new transparency measures and provided new figures on the French nuclear arsenal: 3 sets of submarine borne missiles and 54 air-to-ground missiles. [19]

Future Commitments

  • In support of negotiating verifiable FMCT. The treaty should not cover existing stockpiles. [20]
  • Since France completed a reduction of one-third of its nuclear arsenal, the indication is that France will refuse to further reduce its arsenal in the near future. Statements from President Hollande in February 2015 imply that France will neither further reduce its stockpile, nor build new weapons; it will modernize its forces while remaining inside the boundaries of existing agreements. [21] France claims its nuclear arsenal is now at a level of "strict sufficiency" – the lowest level possible to maintain strategic security. [22]
  • Adheres to the idea that nuclear disarmament must be done in the context of general and complete disarmament, taking into account the strategic context. [23]

Nuclear Weapons Policies

Nuclear testing 5
Use of nuclear weapons
  • Retains first use policy. [27]
  • Negative Security Assurances to NWFZ treaty members: Committed not to use nuclear weapons against state parties to the Tlatelolco, Pelindaba, and Rarotonga treaties. [28] Has not yet signed the protocol to the Bangkok Treaty. [29] Has ratified the Central Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (CANWFZ). [30]
  • Acknowledged the commitments of the NWS to negative security assurances in UN Security Council Resolution 984 (1995). [31]
  • President Hollande rules out using nuclear weapons as battlefield weapons. Asserts that nuclear deterrence has no place in offensive maneuvers and is purely defensive. Nuclear weapons should only be used if France’s vital self-interests are threatened. [32]

Sources:
[1] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Status of World Nuclear Weapons," Federation of American Scientists, May 26, 2016, http://fas.org.
[2] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Status of World Nuclear Weapons," Federation of American Scientists, May 26, 2016, http://fas.org.
[3] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Status of World Nuclear Weapons," Federation of American Scientists, May 26, 2016, http://fas.org.
[4] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Status of World Nuclear Weapons," Federation of American Scientists, May 26, 2016, http://fas.org.
[5] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Status of World Nuclear Weapons," Federation of American Scientists, May 26, 2016, http://fas.org.
[6] Phillip Patton Schnell and Hans M. Kristenson, "Chapter 11: World Nuclear Forces Overview," in SIPRI Yearbook 2016, French Nuclear Forces Overview, 2016.
[7] The ASMPA is a modernized air-to-surface missile that began replacing the ASMP missiles in 2009. Hans Kristensen, "Assuring Destruction Forever," Reaching Critical Will, 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[8] (300kt yield on each ASMPA warhead × 1 warhead per ASMPA × 50 operational ASMPA cruise missiles = 15 megaton yield from cruise missiles) + (100kt yield on each SLBM warhead × 4-6 warheads per SLBM (M45 and M51.1) × 48 SLBMs = 19.2 megaton to 28.8 megaton yield from SLBMs), total yield 34.2-43.8 megatons; Hans Kristensen, "Assuring Destruction Forever," Reaching Critical Will, 2012, pp. 27-33, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[9] International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Increasing Transparency of Nuclear-warhead and Fissile-material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament," February 2014, www.fissilematerial.org.
[10] International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Fissile material stocks," June 13, 2016, www.fissilemateriels.org.
[11] Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, www.nti.org.
[12] Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "French Nuclear Forces, 2008," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 64, No. 4, September/October 2008, http://thebulletin.metapress.com.
[13] Report submitted by France under actions 5, 20 and 21 of the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to the 2015 NPT Review, March 12, 2015, www.francetnp.gouv.fr.
[14] Nuclear Disarmament: Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[15] Nuclear Disarmament: Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[16] Report submitted by France under actions 5, 20 and 21 of the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to the 2015 NPT Review, March 12, 2015, www.francetnp.gouv.fr.
[17] Nuclear Disarmament: Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[18] Nuclear Disarmament: Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[19] President Hollande, Speech on Nuclear Deterrence, February 19, 2015, www.acdn.net.
[20] Conference on Disarmament Starts Thematic Debate on Issue of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, May 16, 2006, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[21] Hans Kristensen, "Assuring Destruction Forever," Reaching Critical Will, 2012, pages 27-33, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; President Hollande, Speech on Nuclear Deterrence, February 19, 2015, www.nuclearfiles.org.
[22] Nuclear Disarmament: Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[23] Statement by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel at Main Committee I of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 1, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; President Hollande, Speech on Nuclear Deterrence, February 19, 2015, www.nuclearfiles.org.
[24] CTBTO website, Nuclear Testing page, www.ctbto.org.
[25] United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, "Treaties Database Home: France," accessed August 5, 2014, http://disarmament.un.org.
[26] United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, "Treaties Database Home: France," accessed August 5, 2014, http://disarmament.un.org.
[27] French Statement at Main Committee I of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[28] Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 3, 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[29] Nuclear Disarmament: Statement by the Head of the French Delegation, Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[30] French Statement at Main Committee I of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 1, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[31] United Nations Security Council, "Resolution 984 (1995)," April 11, 1995, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org; French Statement at Main Committee I of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[32] French Statement at Main Committee I of the May 1 2015 NPT Review Conference, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; French President Hollande, Speech on Nuclear Deterrence, February 19, 2015, www.nuclearfiles.org.

August 30, 2016
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The Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection contains information and analysis of nuclear weapons disarmament proposals and progress worldwide, including detailed coverage of disarmament progress in countries who either possess or host other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.