The French Air Force on Tuesday said it conducted a rare simulation test launch of a nuclear cruise missile just days after the United States announced it will withdraw from a Cold War-era arms control treaty with Russia.
The French nuclear missile strike mission-- that included a Rafale warplane-- lasted 11 hours and included aerial refueling. The mission comes as France looks to double down on its own nuclear dissuasion program. French air force officials did not say when the test was carried out.
"These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapon's system," a French official said. "They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired."
The announcement comes days after the U.S. pulled out a 1987 pact known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces. Tensions between Washington and Moscow have led to growing concerns from Europe over its own security.
“We Europeans cannot remain spectators of our own security,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said at a conference in Portugal, according to Reuters.
The U.S. cited violations by Russia and unsolved disputes in its decision to withdraw from the treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will terminate the deal entirely if Russia doesn’t bring itself into compliance within six months. France spends around 4$ billion annually to maintain its 300 nuclear weapons that are launched via submarine and aircraft.