Pluton

The Pluton was a short-range, road-mobile, solid propellant tactical ballistic missile employed by France from 1974 to 1993. It was eventually replaced by the Hadès missile and retired from service in 1993. 1

Pluton at a Glance

Originated From: France
Possessed By: France
Class: short-range ballistic missile (SRBM)
Basing: tank-launched
Length: 7.64 m
Diameter: 0.65 m
Launch Weight: 2,423 kg
Payload: single warhead
Warhead: HE or 15/25 kT nuclear
Propulsion: single stage solid propellant
Range: 120 km
Status: Obsolete
In Service: 1974-1993

pluton

Pluton Development

The development of the Pluton system began in the early 1960s and became operational in 1974. An improved version of the missile, called the Super Pluton, was dropped in 1983 in favor of the Hadès design, which ultimately replaced the Pluton. The system was gradually phased out of service and was completely retired by 1993. 2

Pluton Specifications

The Pluton had a range of 120 km and used an inertial guidance system that had an accuracy of 150 m CEP. With a launch weight of 2,434 kg, it was 7.64 m long and had a width of 0.65 m. It used a single-stage propellant engine and could be equipped with either a 15 or 25 kT nuclear yield or a high-explosive warhead. 3

The missile proved to be a reliable and readily deployable platform. It was launched from transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicles based on a modified AMX-30 tank chassis. The missile’s relatively low weight allowed the mobile launch vehicle to easily maneuver in adverse road conditions. A CT-20 drone passed real-time targeting information to a command vehicle and allowed for updated targeting data. 4 It could be moved and fired easily, making it a capable battlefield system. However, the 120 km range put most major Soviet targets well out of range and limited even the tactical application of the missile system. While the warhead remained a viable system, the missile was ultimately replaced by systems which allowed for greater range and payload.

Pluton Service History

Sixty missiles were deployed with five regiments of the French Army. 5 In 1993, the system was officially retired.

    1. Federation of American Scientists, “Pluton”, 2000, http://fas.org/nuke/guide/france/theater/pluton.htm.
    2. Duncan Lennox, “Pluton”, Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Obsolete Systems), October 12, 2011.
    3. Federation of American Scientists.
    4. Lennox.
    5. David Baker, The Rocket: The History and Development of Rocket & Missile Technology, 1978, (Crown Publishers, New York), 198.