France fires nuclear-capable missile in a rare show as Russia and US feud over arms treaty

France fires nuclear-capable missile in a rare show as Russia and US feud over arms treaty

Charles de gaulle dassault rafale

Marine nationale

A French Dassault Rafale flies above the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

  • France fired off a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet after a treaty between the US and Russia that formed the cornerstone of European nuclear security collapsed.
  • France has been flexing its military muscles and asserting its independence since feuding with President Donald Trump over defense issues.
  • France fired the missile from a fighter jet in a exercise that tested every element of an actual nuclear strike.

France, one of Europe's two nuclear powers, fired off a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.

France tested all phases of a nuclear strike with an 11-hour-long mission that saw a Rafale fighter jet refuel and actually fire an unarmed missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Reuters quoted France's military as saying.


"These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons' system," French air force spokesman Colonel Cyrille Duvivier said. "They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired."

Read more: We ranked the world's nuclear arsenals - here's why China's came out on top

France also operates a fleet of ballistic missile submarines that can fire off some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don't provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.


France's nuclear test run comes as the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which banned both countries from building nuclear missiels that fly between 300 and 3,200 miles.

In 1987, this treaty saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control ever.

The US has accused Russia of having violated the treaty for years, and with all NATO's backing, the US finally decided to exit the treaty.


Read more: NATO is on Trump's side as Democrats attack him for pulling out of the nuke deal with Russia

But while France as part of NATO sided with the US, France has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.

France flexes its nuclear might against Russia, but also the US

trump macron

Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via AP


French President Emmanuel Macron, during a spat with President Donald Trump, pushed the idea of creating a European army, which got backing from Germany. Experts, however, point out that this idea is largely redundant under NATO and unlikely to ever take shape.

Nonetheless, Trump took direct offense to Macron's idea and mocked him over it on Twitter.

"We Europeans cannot remain spectators of our own security," French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Tuesday at a conference in Portugal.