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Reducing the forces format

France continues to make an active and concrete contribution to disarmament.

France continues to make an active and concrete contribution to disarmament. (© DICoD / Serge Malivert)France continues to make an active and concrete contribution to disarmament. (© DICoD / Serge Malivert)

The French contribution to nuclear disarmament was recalled in the speech set out in Istres by the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, who announced important measures :
Première tête nucléaire déposée dans le cadre du désarmement le 30 septembre 1996 sur l'une des zones de lancement du plateau d'Albion. © Alex ParingauxPremière tête nucléaire déposée dans le cadre du désarmement le 30 septembre 1996 sur l'une des zones de lancement du plateau d'Albion. © Alex Paringaux

  • Announcement of the composition of the French nuclear arsenal : three loads of 16 missiles carried by submarines and 54 ASMPA means of delivery. This was the first time that France revealed these figures, in an effort to increase transparency. It calls on all nuclear-weapon-States to make the same effort of transparency, for all the categories of weapons in their nuclear arsenals.
  • Announcement of visits to new sites which do not house nuclear weapons : the Luxeuil airbase whose nuclear weapons storage depots are now empty, the plateau d’Albion, where the silos which contained the ground-to-ground component have been dismantled. This is part of a continued spirit of transparency ; indeed, France was the first nuclear-weapon State to open the doors of its former nuclear-weapon fissile-materials facilities of Pierrelatte and Marcoule :
    - On 16 September 2008 for over 40 Member States of the Conference on Disarmament ;
    - On 16 March 2009 for over 20 non-governmental experts ;
    - On 3 July 2009 for some 30 international journalists.
    France encourages all nuclear powers to organize such visits, which our experts will also be able to attend.
  • Announcement of France’s presentation to its partners of a draft treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices (FMCT, Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty)  1, which is the next step in multilateral nuclear disarmament.

Système d'armes « Pluton » (1978). Retrait anticipé des missiles Pluton dès 1991. © ECPAD / France / 1978 / Pellegrino, RolandSystème d'armes « Pluton » (1978). Retrait anticipé des missiles Pluton dès 1991. © ECPAD / France / 1978 / Pellegrino, Roland

The size of French nuclear forces is determined by the principle of strict sufficiency. Under this principle, the French arsenal, which guarantees the credibility of our deterrence, is maintained at the lowest possible level compatible with the strategic environment and the foreseeable development of the threat.

Developments in the strategic context meant that we were able to reduce the format of our forces : France thus halved its arsenal in almost ten years. The nuclear deterrence budget has thus halved in 20 years. It is today approximately 0.17 % of France’s GDP (compared with 1 % in 1967 and 0.5 % in 1989).

  • Reduction of the sea-based component : reducing the number of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) in service from six to four.
  • Reduction of the airborne component :
    - early decommissioning and dismantlement of Jaguar and Mirage III-borne AN52 nuclear bombs ;
    - withdrawal of Mirage IV strategic aircraft from nuclear missions ;
    - announced in 2008, a one-third reduction in the number of nuclear weapons, missiles and aircraft in the airborne component, bringing the total French arsenal to fewer than 300 nuclear warheads.
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