France Flag for France

Country Spotlight

France tested its first nuclear weapon in 1960 and is one of five nuclear weapon states recognized under the NPT. It currently possesses the world’s fourth largest nuclear stockpile, deliverable by submarine and air-launched cruise missiles. France once possessed chemical and biological weapons but has since domestically banned their development.

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Region   Europe and Eurasia

~290 Nuclear warheads

210 Nuclear tests conducted at sites in the Sahara and on Pacific Atolls

4 Nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs)

4th Country to develop nuclear weapons


  • Acceded to the NPT in 1992
  • Warheads carried on 40 Rafale BF3 land-based aircraft, 10 Rafale MF3 carrier-based aircraft, and four Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines
  • Maintains a policy of “strict sufficiency,” keeping its nuclear arsenal at the lowest level possible within the strategic context

France Nuclear Overview


  • Officially possessed a biological weapons program through 1972
  • Conducted research into biological agents including botulinum toxin, ricin, and anthrax
  • Possesses a state biodefense program but maintains compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention


  • Eliminated its nuclear-capable land-based ballistic missiles in 1996
  • Nuclear deterrent is dependent upon 48 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and 50 air-launched cruise missiles
  • Currently updating its missile arsenal; has begun designing third generation nuclear-capable SLBMs


  • Developed and used phosgene and mustard agents during World War I
  • Maintained development and testing capabilities through the 1960s producing significant volumes of Sarin and VX nerve agents
  • Destroyed stockpile before 1988 and maintains that it is in ‘excellent cooperation’ with the OPCW

Treaties and Regimes Memberships

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The NPT is a treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons through the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

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Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)

The BTWC mandates the elimination of existing biological weapons and prohibits developing, stockpiling, or using biological and toxin weapons.

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Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires countries to destroy all chemical weapons and prohibits developing, stockpiling, or using chemical weapons.

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Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosion tests on Earth. It needs eight key countries to ratify before entry into force.

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