Modernisation of nuclear deterrent forces and synergy with conventional defence: an example at Roxel

Roxel, European leader in tactical propulsion is also committed to development and supply of equipment for the two deterrent French systems. These programmes allow Roxel to propose innovative solutions on performance as well as industrial processes. Moreover, taking into account the requirement level of these programmes, this also enables Roxel to maintain ability in thermal insulation and simulation.

Innovation and skills maintenance

Concerning the airborne system, Roxel is responsible for the charge of the integrated booster which provides the missile with sufficient speed to make the ramjet function properly. The propellant needed for this application represents the best Roxel know-how. If a new generation of propellants has not been utilised for the mid-life upgrade of the programme, the work allows studies on energetic materials for the future needs of tactical propulsion. Concerning manufacturing processes, Roxel tested a new resonant acoustic mixing system to realise a small ignition charge for this rocket. This promising technology will be developed for other tactical motors and Roxel is supported by DGA through an advanced research programme. In terms of skills, engineering tasks on airborne systems require extensive materials and design teams to justify the technical choices of definition in a demanding environment. It will allow Roxel to propose validated thermal insulation materials or to develop modelling codes which will be of benefit to tactical propulsion motors.

Maintain the competitiveness of industrial facilities

At the other end of the technology spectrum, Roxel is present on the submarine deterrent forces with its unique capability, in France, to manufacture very old generation double base propellants. This propellant family has specific characteristics such as smokeless in the visible domain and chlorine free gases (interesting for tactical propulsion for anti-tank application or for air to ground rockets). Moreover, temperature of firing is significantly lower than classical composite propellant (based on ammonium perchlorate and polybutadiene) together with firing gas composition are still of interest in propulsion. In order to maintain this technology long term for the ballistic missiles launched from submarines Roxel needs to review its production facilities and their sustainability.

In this context, Roxel proposed to DGA to review the process dealing with future environmental and workstation constraints. Besides this, the objectives for Roxel are improving competitiveness in air to ground rockets (last European manufacturer of charges) and for Defence to limit the risk of competency loss through renewed and efficient industrial facilities.

Modernisation of nuclear deterrent, a strength for Roxel and the Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DTIB)

The deterrent forces, through their performance levels, are an innovation aim from a  technological point of view as well as for processes. They also justify technical choices.  For Roxel it means an important synergy with its main activity, the tactical propulsion. If the deterrence activity allows innovation, the tactical propulsion allows a larger use for other missile programmes. The DTIB is consequently reinforced.