The Hadès was a short-range, road mobile, solid-propellant ballistic missile. Before terminated, it was an attempt to use a tactical missile as a strategic asset in the early years of France’s nuclear program. Originally designed for a range of 250 km (155 miles), the missile’s range was later increased to 480 km (298 miles). 1 The missile’s great advantage was its rugged single-stage solid-propellant engine, making it readily deployable along the French borders to repel a possible Soviet attack.
Under Charles de Gaulle, France pursued an alternate nuclear program to NATO, the goal of which was to function autonomously and provide France with the ability to escalate conflicts quickly. The threat of nuclear escalation on a tactical level was part of the French land-based deterrent, of which the Hadès, as both a tactical and strategic system, was an important component. The project dates back to 1975, when it was designated as a replacement for the tactical road-mobile Pluton system. Development began in 1984, followed by flight testing in 1988. 2
The missiles were deployed on transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicles, each carrying two missiles. Relatively small and light, the TELs could move easily along unimproved roads, thus making the Hadès an easily deployable weapon. The missiles themselves were only 7.5 m in length, 0.53 in diameter, and 1,850 kg in weight. Despite its small size, the Hadès carried a potent 80 kT yield nuclear or a powerful HE warhead. 3 Powered by a single-stage solid-propellant engine, the Hadès could reach a range of 480 km (298 miles), which meant that the missile could be used against strategic military targets, although it was insufficient to threaten Soviet cities and missile silos.
The Hadès used an inertial guidance system capable of making evasive maneuvers as it approached its target. Although the accuracy of the system remains unknown, reports indicate that a variant was being developed to destroy buried hard targets, using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system and digital terminal guidance resulting in an accuracy of less than 5 m CEP. The Hadès trajectory was intentionally kept low, so that the aerodynamic control fins at the rear of the missile could alter the trajectory and range during flight and make evasive maneuvers during the terminal phase. 4
In 1991, the Ministry of Defense decided against deploying the Hadès system operationally and limited production to 30 missiles and 15 TEL vehicles. The missiles were originally put into storage so that they could be reactivated given a military conflict in Europe. 5 In 1996, it was announced that the missiles were to be dismantled following France’s new policy of a sea-based nuclear deterrent. 6 In June 1997, the last of the Hadès missiles was destroyed. 7
Last Updated 9/12/2012
- Lennox, Duncan. “Hades.” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Obsolete Systems). October 13, 2011. (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩
- Global Security. “Weapons of Mass Destruction (See France, IRBM).” July 24, 2011. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/france/hades.htm (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩
- Lennox, “Hades.” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Obsolete Systems). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- JAC Lewis, “All Change for France: How the Big Shake-Out Will Shape-Up,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 13, 1996. ↩
- Global Security. “Weapons of Mass Destruction (See France, IRBM).” ↩