Following the submarine row, the United Kingdom and France are trapped in a nuclear missile standoff.
Sources say that efforts to persuade France not to use live nuclear missiles in military drills have been hampered by the aftermath from the Aukus submarine issue.
Ben Wallace, the Secretary of Defense, was scheduled to meet with his French counterpart Florence Parly to express “concerns” about the practice. However, it was postponed following the introduction of the Aukus defensive alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which resulted in Paris losing a £47 billion submarine contract with Australia. Unlike the United Kingdom, France’s nuclear deterrent is based on submarines and aircraft, and it conducts training “scrambles” in three stages termed Banco, Poker, and Excalibur on a regular basis.
Banco is the deployment of Strategic Air Forces aircraft to bases where they are armed with missiles.
They don’t fly away. Crews remain awake in their cockpits for several hours before the missiles are unloaded and they return to their bases for a large-scale debriefing, as per rigorous nuclear standards.
France utilized mock warheads for drills until recently, but this is thought to have altered in recent months in an attempt to make them more realistic. Banco testing have also become more common.
A Whitehall source stated, “The manner France uses its nuclear deterrent is a concern for France.” “However, on this side of the Channel, there are reservations about the employment of real warheads. It was supposed to be discussed at the meeting, but due to the announcement, it was postponed.” The Aukus agreement enraged France, which it saw as a betrayal. The rescheduling of the Wallace meeting is just one example of how enraged Paris is.
The French secured a deal with Greece last week to sell frigates and fighter fighters to its partner.
France will also “completely support” Greek territorial claims on Cyprus, which are challenged by Nato member Turkey and have caused growing tensions in recent months. It might exacerbate tensions between EU and Nato interests, as well as cause problems for the United Kingdom, which is one of the peacekeepers in divided Cyprus.
“We are waiting for more information on what this defence pact could mean in practice,” a Whitehall source said, “but there is reason to be concerned that it may upset the balance in Cyprus.”