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1,000 “LEGIONNAIRES” TO REPLACE FRANCE’S INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES ON THE ALBION PLATEAU

Nuclear Notes From France September 1997 Nº 49

Following President Chirac’s decision last year to close down the land-based nuclear missile launching sites, the French defense ministry announced on September 11, 1997, that Foreign Legionnaires will be stationned on the windswept Plateau d’Albion in southeastern France. The missiles, each one many times more powerful than the atomic bomb which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945, were deactivated in September 1997, leaving France’s independent deterrent force with nuclear submarines and stand-off bomber aircraft to deliver nuclear missiles. Dismantling the base created dismay in the region because it provided jobs and a boost to the local economy. The 1,000 legionnaires who will man the base from 1999-2000 will be part of a new combat engineers unit able to be moved quickly overseas in case of crisis. Some of the personnel making up the unit will come from an existing Legion engineers regiment which maintains France’s now-closed nuclear testing site at Mururoa atoll in the south Pacific.