The French Air Force has paired up a key strike aircraft and a new air-to-ground missile design for a first-time operational firing.
Using a Mirage 2000-N nuclear strike fighter, the FAF missile launch involved MBDA’s ASMPA, which was fired off the aircraft’s central, under-fuselage rail. The firing occurred at the culmination of a five-hour flight, which saw the Mirage operate at a range of altitudes and receive a series of air-to-air refuels from a Boeing KC-135 airborne tanker.
The Mirage 2000N is a dedicated nuclear strike version of the Mirage 2000 fighter. First flown in 1983, it reached operational deployability within the French Air Force five years later. Compared to the original airframe, the –N model features a reinforced wing design to support sustained low-level flight, enhanced avionics and the ability to carry weapons including the earlier ASMP nuclear missile.
ASMPA Missile Launch
According to data published by the FAF, the ASMPA missile launch was a success, and saw the missile stick to its intended flightpath.
The ASMPA is the replacement for the ASMP and, ultimately, it will equip other French military aircraft, too, such as the Dassault Rafale. Ramjet motor-powered, the missile is topped by a nuclear warhead that, unlike all previous French designs, was developed with computer models: all earlier warhead developments having involved controversial physical nuclear tests.
ASMPA is designed to be launched at various altitudes, to strike medium-range targets and to operate at speeds in excess of Mach 1.
Mirage Missile Launch
ASMPA began life in late 1997, when the programme to update the ASMP was launched. Development on it began in 2000, leading up to an initial firing in 2009, and onto today’s Mirage missile launch.
The original ASMP missile was manufactured by Aerospatiale, which is now owned by MBDA.
It joined the French military weapons inventory in the mid-1980s, taking over from the AN-52 and AN-22 designs.
ASMPA Missile image courtesy of MBDA