Airborne nuclear deterrence making a comeback?

A veteran of the Cold War nuclear quick readiness alert mission, Air Power Association President, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE, examines the current status of airborne nuclear deterrence and explains how it still offers several advantages over other strategic delivery systems.

This two-seat French Air Force Rafale B from Escadron de Chasse 1/4 ‘Gascogne’ carries an example of the ASMP-A nuclear-tipped cruise missile on its centreline station. Today, France relies upon a three-tiered nuclear deterrence force: land-based Rafale Bs of the Forces Aériennes Stratégiques, carrier-based Rafale Ms of the Force Aéronavale Nucléaire and sub-launched missiles of the Force Océanique Stratégique.

The distance from the hardened personnel shelter to the equally hardened aircraft shelter was short enough to sprint, even though both aircrew were in full flying kit and had only just been woken from their sleep. The cold night air and the adrenaline rush was enough to have them fully awake as they arrived at the shelter. The police guard had already activated the doors and an eerie glow crept out as the heavily laden Tornado GR1 appeared between the swinging clamshell metal doors. The ground crew were running alongside, having fired up the generator as the crew raced up the wide aircraft steps to the cockpit.

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