Paris is looking to join the handful of states worldwide with hypersonic weapons capabilities.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has revealed that Paris intends to reach the testing stage on a new hypersonic glider design in two years’ time.
“We’ve decided to conclude a contract on the creation of a working prototype of a hypersonic glider,” Parly said, speaking to AFP.
According to the defence minister, the glider will be capable of reaching speeds above Mach 5 (over 6,000 kph), with the first test flight scheduled “for late 2021.”
The programme, called “V-MaX”, Vehicule Manoeuvrant eXperimental (‘experimental manoeuvring vehicle’), is being developed by aerospace and defence firm ArianeGroup, which serves as the main contractor, with France’s Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), the agency responsible for defence procurement and technology, overseeing the project.
The glider is expected to be able to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads, and manoeuvre at high speeds to evade enemy air defences. The primary purpose of the prototype is to evaluate the advantages and limitations of the concept, and study the expected trade-offs, such as low payload, required to achieve hypersonic speeds.
“Many nations are equipping themselves with such weapons. We too have all the skills to achieve this. We cannot afford to wait,” Parly stressed.
AFP indicated that France is already working on an engine for hypersonic missiles as part of plans to modernise its nuclear arsenal, including a new hypersonic successor to the ASMP medium-range missile, dubbed the ASN4G.
Full article: ‘Can’t Afford to Wait’: Defence Chief Unveils France’s Hypersonic Arms Ambitions (Spacedaily)