The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMP/ ASMP-A) is an air-launched land-attack cruise missile that carries a nuclear payload. It is a central component of France’s nuclear deterrent force.
ASMP at a Glance
- Originated From
- Possessed By
- Supersonic Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM)
- Air- or surface-based
- 5.38 m
- 0.38 m
- Launch Weight
- 860 kg
- 200 kg
- TN- 80/ TN- 81, 300 kT Nuclear
- Solid Propellant, Ramjet
- 80 -300 km (ASMP-A: 500 km)
- In Service
- 1986 (ASMP-A: 2009)
ASMP/ ASMP-A Development
The missile was developed as a product of a competition between Matra’s turbojet proposal and Aerospatiale’s ramjet proposal (now MBDA). The ramjet version was chosen and full-scale development began in 1978. The goal was to replace the AN-22 nuclear bomb carried by the Mirage IV with a cruise missile that could penetrate air defenses and achieve a more credible deterrent vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
In 1999, MBDA developed the ASMP-A (Amelioreor Plus) as a means to increase the range and accuracy of the missile, as well as to generally modernize the missile’s systems. Although the exact details are unclear, the ASMP-A is believed to have a range of 600 km- approximately twice the range of the ASMP. The first tests began in December 2000 and continued in 2001, 2006, and 2009. The missile became operational in October 2009.1
In 2012, the French Air Force conducted its first end-to-end test (non-nuclear) which included in-flight refueling, high and low altitude tests, and terrain hugging scenarios to simulate penetrating enemy air defenses.2
The ASMP is 5.38 m in length, 0.38 m in body diameter, and has a launch weight of 860 kg. The earlier version of the missile carried the TN- 80, a 300kT nuclear warhead with a payload of 200 kg, while the later version of the missile carries both the TN-81 and 300kT nuclear warheads, with a reduced payload of 180 kg.3 It is an inertial-guided, air-to-surface missile most likely directed by terrain-mapping and a pre-programmed onboard computer. The motor assembly is comprised of a solid-propellant engine which fires after the missile has been released from the aircraft. Upon ignition, the missile accelerates to Mach 2.0 in five seconds, after which the booster cartridge is ejected from the ramjet exhaust nozzle. Then, the liquid (kerosene) – powered ramjet motor takes over and accelerates to a maximum speed of Mach 3.0 depending on the altitude. The ASMP has a high altitude range of 300 km, and a low altitude range of 80 km.4
The ASMP was deployed in 1986 by the French Air Force, and later in 1989 by the French Navy. Although 150 missiles were reportedly scheduled for production, due to the French government’s 2008 decision to reduce its number of nuclear warheads, it is suspected that only 40-50 missiles were actually produced.5
Since entering service in 2009, ASMP-A has been carried by Mirage 2000NK3 and Rafale F3 aircrafts. There is currently one Rafale Mk 3 squadron in the French Navy and two squadrons in the Air Force.6
- Robert Hewson, “ASMP and ASMP-A” Jane’s Air Launched Weapons (Air to Surface Missiles- Stand- off and Cruise), April 20, 2012.
- Robert Wall, “French Air Force Demos ASMPA Raid.” Aviation Week, June 20, 2012, http://aviationweek.com/blog/french-air-force-demos-asmpa-raid.
- James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 133-134.
- Ibid, 134.
- Ibid, 134.
- James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 134-135.