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Successful flight test of upgraded ASMPA missile paves way for refurbishment

The ASMPA – seen here on the aircraft centreline – is scheduled to remain in service until around 2035. (SirpaAir/French Air Force)

France has approved the mid-life refurbishment of its Air-Sol Moyenne Portée Amélioré (ASMPA) air-launched nuclear missile inventory after a successful second qualification firing.

‎Announced by France's Direction générale de l'armement (DGA) on 24 March, the firing of the unarmed ASMPA missile was undertaken from a Dassault Rafale combat aircraft operating from Cazaux Air Force Base in southwest France. In its statement, the DGA said that the second successful launch, performed the previous day, makes it possible to start the production of serial missiles.‎

Constituting the airborne component of France's strategic deterrent, the MBDA-developed ASMPA is a supersonic medium-range ‘pre-strategic' missile equipped with a nuclear payload. The ramjet-powered missile entered service with the air and space force (l'Armée de l'air et de l'espace) in 2009, and with the navy (Marine nationale) the following year.

The ASMPA mid-life refurbishment programme, launched in December 2016, is intended to address obsolescence issues and improve missile performance to maintain the weapon's credibility into the mid-2030s. A first test of the upgraded ASMPA was conducted in December 2020.

The latest qualification firing, undertaken by the DGA authority on behalf of MBDA, involved a Rafale test aircraft prepared by Dassault Aviation. Additional support was provided by l'Armée de l'air et de l'espace, and the Marine nationale.

No details of the flight time or distance covered were disclosed. However, the DGA revealed that the missile was tracked from DGA Essais de missiles facilities at Biscarrosse, Hourtin and Quimper on the west coast of France, and also by radars on board the range instrumentation vessel Monge . The missile was followed in flight by DGA Essais en vol.‎

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