S3 (missile)

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Missile S3 monté en position verticale Musee du Bourget P1010455.JPG
S3 missile on display at Musée de l'air et de l'espace
Place of origin France
Service history
In service 1980-1996
Used by French Air Force
Production history
Manufacturer Aérospatiale
Weight 25,800 kg (56,900 lb)
Length 13.8 m (45 ft)
Diameter 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in)
Warhead TN 61 warhead, 1.2 megatonnes

Engine Two-stage Solid-fuel rocket
534 kN (120,000 lbf)
Propellant 23,000 kg (51,000 lb) solid fuel
3,500 km (2,200 mi)
Silo, Plateau d'Albion

The S3 was a French land-based Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, equipped with a single 1.2-megatonne thermonuclear warhead. In France it is called an SSBS, for Sol-Sol Balistique Stratégique, or Ground-Ground Strategic Ballistic Missile.


The S3 is a two-stage, solid-propellant Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). The first stage was inherited from the S2, with a P16 solid fuel engine and 4 exhausts.

The first stage carries 16,940 kg (37,350 lb) of fuel and burns for 72 seconds. The second stage carries 6,015 kg (13,261 lb) and burns for 58 seconds. The nuclear warhead, a single 1.2 Mt TN 61, is hardened and carries penetration aids.[1]

Operational history[edit]

From 1971, the main land-based component of the French nuclear deterrent (force de dissuasion) was the S2 missile. In 1973, a programme was started to develop a second-generation "ground-ground ballistic strategic" (SSBS in French) missile, completed in 1980. Two groups totaling 18 S2 missile silos were upgraded to the S3 standard.

A first 9-missile group was deployed at Apt-Saint-Christol air base, on the Plateau d'Albion in the Vaucluse region, entering service in 1982. The second group followed soon after. 40 missiles were built, 13 being used on trials.

The S3 were originally planned to be replaced around 2005 by a land-based version of the M5, the submarine missile planned at the time. As the M5 project was itself delayed and eventually cancelled in favour of the M51, in 1994, the replacement was re-scheduled to be a land-based version of the M45.[citation needed] The 18 S3D missile silos were deactivated in September 1996, and within two years and after an expenditure of US$77.5 million, the silos and related facilities were fully dismantled.[2] They would not be replaced.


  1. ^ SSBS S3 at Astronautix.com
  2. ^ Norris, Robert S.; Arkin, William M.; Kristensen, Hans M.; Handler, Joshua (1 July 2001). "French Nuclear Forces, 2001". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 23 June 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).