The official doctrine reaffirms the close tie between the tactical and strategic nuclear levels: ‘Resorting to the use of these [tactical nuclear] arms would be the final warning [l’ultime avertissement] before implementing the strategic nuclear response.’
France’s nuclear deterrent . . . A former French official intimately concerned with French military strategy expounded it (approvingly) in 1982 as follows: ‘The French strategic concept, as exposed in official papers, is entirely focused on deterrence. . . . should the pressure exercised by the other side become irresistible. . . the tactical [nuclear] weapons would be fired as a final warning (ultime avertissement) that, should the enemy press on with his offensive, the use of strategic weapons would become inevitable. Unlike the NATO doctrine of flexible response — and for the obvious reason that French tactical weapons are very limited in numbers — the French concept envisages no possibility of limiting a nuclear war, once initiated, to the lowest possible level of violence. In the confrontation between the weak and the strong, the former can only present a problem to the latter if he can threaten him with risks so great that they bear no relation to […]
1988, David Garnham, The Politics of European Defense Cooperation: Germany, France, Britain, and America (Ballinger; →ISBN, 9780887303029), pages 53⁽¹⁾ and 56⁽²⁾
⁽¹⁾ […] strategic” to emphasize that they were not battlefield weapons but the l’ultime avertissement (final warning) prior to the use of strategic forces.
⁽²⁾ French conventional forces have two roles: to defend the FRG conventionally alongside the allies if the president makes that determination, but also to conduct the national deterrent maneuver (to test the enemy’s intentions) prior to the use of prestrategic (l’ultime avertissement) weapons.
⁽¹⁾ The fact that the Pluton would be deployed into the combat zone as the First Army was moved forward meant that it would have to fulfill its principally political mission of “ultime avertissement”* from a position that was incompatible with the central control by the French President.
⁽²⁾ It is clear, however, that the new tactical nuclear arsenal will be considerably more diversified, flexible, survivable, and capable of a larger range of military missions, thus presenting the French President with greater choice in executing his “ultime avertissement.”
Soviet uncertainty in such circumstances would be contrary to the implied escalation-control intent of the ultime avertissement strike.
1995, John C. Hopkins and Weixing Hu [eds.], Strategic Views from the Second Tier: The Nuclear Weapons Policies of France, Britain, and China (Transaction Publishers, →ISBN, Part II: “French Policy”:
David S. Yost, ‘Nuclear Weapons Issues in France’, pages 23,⁽¹⁾ 26,⁽²⁾ 69⁽³⁾
⁽¹⁾ Unless the Hadès force is someday reconstituted, the “prestrategic” or “final warning” (ultime avertissement) mission prior to strategic nuclear strikes will be assured in the foreseeable future solely by ASMP air-launched missiles, launched mainly from Mirage 2000N and Super-Etendard aircraft.
⁽²⁾ The distinction between aircraft with “strategic” and “prestrategic” or “final warning” (ultime avertissement) missions has accordingly become increasingly vague.
⁽³⁾ The preferred alternative to “prestrategic” has been “final warning” (ultime avertissement), which might even be replaced by “strategic warning” (avertissement stratégique) to be consistent with the argument that all nuclear weapons are “strategic” weapons and that none should be considered for limited conflicts.
Benoit Morel, ‘French Nuclear Weapons and the New World Order’, page 117, (endnote 1)⁽⁴⁾
⁽⁴⁾ The French are in the process of totally dismantling their tactical forces, which they call “prestrategic” or ultime avertissement (last warning).
1996, Bruce D. Larkin, Nuclear Designs: Great Britain, France, & China in the Global Governance of Nuclear Arms (Transaction Publishers, →ISBN, chapter 2: “Nuclear Programs”, page 38
Like the French doctrine of “ultime avertissement” — employing “substrategic” systems as a last warning — which it closely resembles, this strategic rationale raises a question about just what contingency plans may be in place.
1997, Rodney Balcomb, “Defence Policy” in Aspects of Contemporary France (Routledge, →ISBN, edited by Sheila Perry, pages 70–71
Although France developed tactical nuclear weapons, official policy was that these were not intended for use as battlefield weapons; instead, the firing of a tactical nuclear weapon was to be a final warning (ultime avertissement) to an aggressor that, unless he desisted from attack, France would rapidly launch long-range nuclear weapons against his homeland.
Initially, the force de frappe also contained mobile tactical missiles for use against Soviet armies, but because no full-scale Soviet invasion of Europe could be stopped just by NATO conventional forces in a quick war, France’s nuclear weapons would be a “warning shot” (ultime avertissement) against enemy advances prior to a full-scale nuclear attack on key Soviet cities, in a “worse-case” stratégie du faible au fort (“weak-to-strong strategy”) of mutual assured destruction.
2011, Venance Journé, “France’s Nuclear Stance: Independence, Unilateralism, and Adaptation” in Getting to Zero: The Path to Nuclear Disarmament? (Stanford University Press; →ISBN, 9780804777025, 9780804777728), edited by Catherine M. Kelleher and Judith Reppy, many pages
This credible use, consisting in the capacity to strike precisely with weapons of a lower yield, has a concept attached: the ultime avertissement, now also called the avertissement nucléaire. Officially it is argued that the long-lived concept of ultime avertissement remains essential to avoid locking the president into a two-prong alternative: everything or nothing. A limited strike such as the ultime avertissement seems to be the major element of a flexible response. In 2006, Minister of Defense Alliot Marie emphasized the fact that the ultime avertissement is at “the core of the deterrence doctrine.”