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France is a declared nuclear weapons state, and is one of the five states authorized to possess nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Maintaining a clear policy for an independent deterrent, France withdrew from the NATO integrated command structure in 1961, and only rejoined in 2009.

In 2009, the French Armament Procurement Agency confirmed that it accepted the space-based SPIRALE early warning system demonstrator. That same year, France embarked on a joint venture with Italy and the UK for the development of the Principal Anti-Air Missile System(PAAMS).  

PAAMS was designed as a defense against aircraft and sea skimming anti-ship missiles, but has since proven that it can intercept ballistic missiles using its Aster 15 and Aster 30 interceptors. In November 2011, a French naval vessel successfully intercepted an Israeli-built “Black Sparrow” test missile.

In July of 2011, a French parliamentary committee published a report recommending that France become a “major contributor” to any NATO missile defense projects, stating that “(k)eeping France’s autonomy in technologies needed for missile defense…is worth the investment.”


Recent Developments

On September 16, 2013, the Singapore Defense Minister announced that Singapore Armed Forces would be purchasing the Aster 30 Surface to Air Missile System. The Defense Minister said that the Aster 30 is “many times more potent” than its current I-Hawk system, and “would provide a layered air defense shield.”



France operates its PAAM (Principal Anti-Air Missile System) jointly with Italy and the UK, deploying Aster 15 short to medium range missiles and Aster 30 short to long-range missiles.

France also has in place a space-based infrared preparatory warning system. The system uses two satellites that detect ballistic missile launches via their infrared heat signatures.

Updated February 14, 2014


Ian Williams 

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