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Short-range ballistic missile

Hades missile

Aptly named after the ancient Greek god of the underworld, the short-lived Hades was the last French short-range ballistic missile

Data is for an R380 truck with a Hades trailer
Entered service ?
Crew 3 men
Launcher dimensions and weight
Number of missiles 2
Combat weight ~ 15 t
Length ~ 25 m
Width 2.5 m
Height ~ 4 m
Missile length 7.5 m
Missile diameter 0.53 m
Missile launch weight 1 850 kg
Warhead weight ?
Warhead type Nuclear, 80 kT
Range of fire 480 km
CEP 100 m
Engine Renault diesel
Engine power 517 hp
Maximum road speed ~ 90 km/h
Range ~ 1 000 km


   The Hades was the second French short-range ballistic missile system, following the Pluton. As luck would have it, this was also the last French missile of this type ever to be produced.

   The requirement for what became the Hades began in 1975, when the French Army established a requirement for a successor to the Pluton. The French civilian government's interest was not as keen however, and development was not actually initiated until July of 1984. It was initially planned that 120 missiles would be produced, with a neutron bomb warhead and a range of 250 km. However, this was soon revised to a more conventional nuclear warhead and an increased range of 480 km.

   The first launch of the Hades took place in 1988, but even by then the program was still in trouble. It was soon after decided that only 15 launch vehicles and 30 missiles would be procured, and in September of 1991, President Francois Mitterrand announced that all of these would be placed in storage without ever becoming operational. Ultimately, the Hades never did enter service.

   Unlike the preceding Pluton, the Hades is launched from a container-launcher mounted on a wheeled trailer, which is towed by a Renault R380 6x4 truck. The Hades is thus road-mobile, but lacks the cross-country capability of the Pluton. When the launcher is in its lowered position and covered with a tarp, it is extremely difficult to distinguish from a cargo trailer, allowing Hades trailers to be transported almost incognito, to avoid drawing unwanted attention. Each trailer held two launcher-containers.

   Though originally planned to have a neutron bomb warhead, the nuclear payload for the Hades was instead the more conventional TN 90 thermonuclear warhead, with a variable yield up to 80 kT. A conventional HE warhead was also planned, but probably wasn't procured, owing to the very small number of Hades missiles that ended up being manufactured. The mass of both the conventional and nuclear warheads have never been published, but they are presumably almost the same.

   Guidance for the Hades was a simple internal navigation system. While not particularly accurate by the standards of the day, this system did have the advantages of being invulnerable to jamming, and not emitting any signals that would give away the launch or the missile's position in flight. Accuracy was estimated at a CEP of 100 m, though exactly where this 100 m circle was in relation to the actual aimpoint of the missile was never clarified. A GPS-assisted guidance system was also proposed for the conventionally-armed version, with a claimed CEP of only 5 m, but this new guidance system was never adopted.

   Propulsion of the Hades was a simple solid propellant rocket motor. Not only did this simplify logistics, but the solid fuel motor was also much more rugged and tolerant of rough handling than most equivalent liquid fuel motors.

   To launch the missile, the trailer had to be parked and braced against the ground with jacks, and the launcher elevated to 90 degrees and locked into place. Because the launcher-container elevator was hinged at the rear end of the trailer, the trailer was relatively long, and the missile's back-blast during launch was mostly concentrated at either end of the launcher-container, no special measures were needed to protect the cab from the back-blast (in other words, a standard truck was acceptable for launch operations, and did not have to unhitch the trailer). It was also possible to elevate the launcher into position and launch the missiles even when the trailer was disconnected, as the control cab was mounted on the front end of the trailer.

   On February 23rd 1996, President Jacques Chirac announced a radical restructuring of the French nuclear forces, and part of this agenda was the termination of the remaining Hades inventory. By June 23rd 1997, the last operable Hades missile was destroyed. By 1999, the rest of the facilities associated with the Hades were dismantled as well, the total cost of which (including the inactivation of the missile systems) was 76 million.

   No attempt has been made to resurrect the program, and given that weapon programs inactive for so long are almost impossible to revive, the Hades system for all intents and purposes no longer exists. The only examples that remain are inactivated missiles and launchers, used for display purposes.

   There are no known variants of the Hades.



   Article by BLACKTAIL

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Hades missile

Hades missile

Hades missile

Hades missile

Hades missile

Hades missile

Hades missile

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