In 1974, the French armed forces began the development of the first domestic self-propelled operational-tactical missile system Pluton. This system carried a ballistic missile with a firing range of up to 120 km and could attack targets using a nuclear or high-explosive warhead. For all its advantages, the Pluto complex had a serious tactical flaw: the area of responsibility of such equipment when deployed on French territory was insufficient. To increase the strike potential of the nuclear forces, it was decided to create a new system of a similar purpose with improved characteristics. The OTRK Hadès was supposed to replace the Pluton system.
The development of the Hadès project ("Hades" is one of the names of the ancient Greek god of the underworld) began only in the mid-eighties, but by this time French experts had already conducted some research aimed at the development of rocketry. Back in 1975, shortly after the start of operation of the "Pluto", the military department formed the requirements for a promising OTRK. The defense industry did some preliminary research, but it didn't go further. The country's leadership has not yet seen the point in replacing the existing complexes. The situation changed only at the end of the decade.
OTRK Hadès at the exhibition area. Photo Maquetland.com
At the very end of the seventies, they returned to the idea of modernizing missile systems. Based on the results of the analysis of the possibilities, it was later decided to create an upgraded version of the Pluton complex. The Super Pluton project was of great interest to the army, but was never brought to its logical conclusion. In 1983, the work was curtailed, since the simple development of existing technology was considered impractical. To meet the sufficiently high requirements of the customer, a completely new project had to be developed.
A new project called Hadès was officially launched in July 1984. The order for the development of the complex was received by Aérospatiale. In addition, Space and Strategic Systems Division and Les Mureaux were involved in the work. At that time, the customer wanted to get an operational-tactical missile system with a firing range of up to 250 km. In total, it was planned to release 120 missiles with a nuclear warhead. Subsequently, the requirements for the project have changed several times. For example, the military changed their opinion about the required type of warhead, and also increased the required firing range. In the final version of the tactical and technical requirements, the latter was set at 480 km - four times more than that of Pluto.
An analysis of the operating experience of existing missile systems, as well as the study of new requirements, led to the formation of the original appearance of a promising system. For certain reasons, it was decided to abandon the tank-based self-propelled tracked chassis and use other equipment instead. The most convenient from the point of view of operation and characteristics was considered the system in the form of a truck tractor and a semitrailer. On such a technique, it was possible to place all the necessary components and assemblies, as well as ammunition in the form of two missiles. In addition to the acceptable carrying capacity, the tractor with a semitrailer had to have high tactical and strategic mobility, which would make it possible to quickly transfer equipment to the desired area along the existing highways. Loss in cross-country ability was considered an acceptable price to pay for improving other characteristics.
The mobility of the new OTRK was to be provided by the Renault R380 truck tractor. This 6x4 vehicle had a cabover configuration and was equipped with a 380 hp diesel engine. The characteristics of the tractor made it possible to tow a special trailer with a full set of various equipment and two missiles. So, with a total mass of the complex of about 15 tons, it was possible to accelerate to 90 km / h on the highway. The fuel range exceeded 1000 km. The use of a commercial tractor, as conceived by the authors of the Hadès project, was supposed to give the complex certain advantages over existing systems.
Tractor Renaulr R380. Photo Maquetland.com
The Hades project involved the use of a serial tractor with minimal changes to its design and equipment. In particular, a telescopic antenna was installed on the rear wall of the cockpit for communication and receiving target designation. It was also envisaged to equip the driver's workplace with some additional devices, such as means of communication with other crew members.
The main task of the tractor was to tow a special semi-trailer, which was an autonomous missile launcher. Outwardly, such a semi-trailer differed little from similar products used for the transportation of various goods. The most noticeable difference was the camouflage color, which clearly speaks of the military purpose of the vehicle. Nevertheless, all the similarities with other semi-trailers were limited only by their appearance.
The main element of the semitrailer-launcher was a long power unit, which had fasteners for all assemblies and parts. On top of it were placed several elements of the body, below - the chassis, means of connection with the tractor, etc. With the use of some elements borrowed from serial transport equipment, the Hadès complex semi-trailer had a number of characteristic features directly related to its purpose.
In the front of the semi-trailer, a large compartment-van was mounted with workplaces for calculation and various electronic equipment. For camouflage, the upper part of the sides and the roof of the crew compartment was covered with a fabric awning. On the sides of the compartment-van there were low sides that covered it. These sides ran along the entire length of the semitrailer. In the central and aft parts of it, the sides were used as a casing for various systems used with a swinging launcher. In addition, next to them were mountings for installation and missiles in the transport position.
In the stern of the platform there was a hinge for mounting the rocking frame of the launcher. The latter had a hydraulic drive for lifting and securing for the installation of transport and launch containers for missiles. In the stowed position, the frame with containers had to be laid in a horizontal position. In this case, the containers formed a kind of continuation of the roof of the calculation compartment. Due to this position of the units, the maximum similarity of the launcher with a cargo semitrailer was ensured. For additional camouflage, TPK missiles on the march were proposed to be covered with an awning.
The complex is in the stowed position. Photo Military-today.com
The semi-trailer received a "traditional" chassis based on a two-axle bogie with dual wheels. Such a chassis could not provide the required stability of the launcher at the start of the rocket, which is why the semi-trailer was equipped with a set of jacks. Two of these hydraulically driven telescopic devices were placed at the front of the semitrailer, directly behind the tractor. Two more supports were placed in the stern and attached to the swinging arms, increasing the distance between them.
The Hadès operational-tactical complex was to be operated by a crew of three. The driver's workplace was located in the tractor cab. Two other crew members responsible for the use of rocket weapons during combat work were supposed to be in the front compartment of the semi-trailer van. It was proposed to get into the compartment using a door in its front wall. Directly behind it were two chairs, in front of which there was a set of necessary consoles, controls, screens and indicators. The calculation compartment was not very large, but it contained everything necessary and provided the required convenience of work.
OTRK "Hades" had a total length of about 25 m, a width of 2.5 m and a height of about 4 m. Combat weight reached 15 tons. Due to a sufficiently powerful engine and a wheeled chassis, the Renault tractor provided high mobility characteristics. The combat vehicle could be deployed to the desired area as soon as possible. At the same time, movement over rough terrain was almost excluded.
One of the basic provisions of the Hadès project was the rejection of the further development of the existing rocket of the "Pluto" system, which had insufficient characteristics. For the new complex, it was decided to create a different weapon. At the same time, however, the general architecture of the new rocket corresponded to the developments in the previous complex. It was again proposed to use a single-stage solid-propellant rocket with a special warhead and an autonomous guidance system.
In the process of deployment. The jacks are lowered, the launcher is raised. Photo Materiel-militaire.com
The rocket of the new model received a cylindrical body of large elongation with an ogival head fairing. X-shaped stabilizers with rudders for in-flight control were placed next to the tail section. The layout of the product also remained the same. The head compartment was given over to accommodate the warhead and control systems. All other hull volumes housed a solid fuel engine with increased performance. The Hadès rocket had a length of 7.5 m with a hull diameter of 0.53 m. The launch weight was 1850 kg.
To deliver the warhead to the target, it was proposed to use a solid-propellant engine again. Due to the use of new fuel and an increased size of its charge, it was planned to achieve a significant improvement in performance in comparison with existing counterparts. In addition, the solid-propellant engine did not have special transportation requirements, which was important for a mobile rocket system.
The basic version of the Hades project implied the use of an autonomous inertial guidance system. With the help of a gyro-stabilized platform with sensors, the automation was supposed to determine the movement of the rocket and its position in space, and then issue commands to the steering cars. According to calculations, the circular probable deviation when using such guidance was supposed to be 100 m. The possibility of using the trajectory correction in the final section according to the signals of navigation satellites was also being worked out. This made it possible to bring the KVO up to 5 m. Like the rocket of the previous project, the Hadès product retained the ability to maneuver both in the active and in the final section of the trajectory. The improved "satellite" guidance system has not left the stage of preliminary studies.
A thermonuclear warhead of the TN 90 type was to be placed in the head compartment of the rocket. The development of this product started in 1983 with the aim of future replacement of the existing warheads of the used missiles. One of the main features of the TN 90 project was the use of a variable power warhead. Depending on the type of target, it was possible to set the explosion power up to 80 kt. To solve some combat missions, Hadès missiles could also use a high-explosive warhead of the same mass as a special one. This version of the rocket was easier to manufacture and operate, but it was much less powerful.
The development of a completely new rocket made it possible to fully meet the customer's requirements regarding the firing range. The minimum distance to the target was determined at 60 km, the maximum - 480 km. A characteristic feature of the rocket was its relatively low trajectory height. When firing at the maximum range, the rocket did not rise to an altitude of more than 150 km.
One of the remotes in the control compartment. Photo Military-today.com
The missiles of the "Hades" complex were proposed at the plant to be placed in a transport-launch container and delivered in this form to the troops. The container was a rectangular product about 8 m long with a width and height of about 1.25 m. On both sides the container was covered with lids that protected the rocket from various influences. On the lower surface of the TPK there were mounts for mounting on the swinging frame of the launcher, as well as a set of various connectors. The dimensions of the container allowed one launcher to simultaneously carry two missiles with a warhead of the desired type at once.
The process of preparing the complex for firing was quite simple. Arriving at the indicated firing position, the calculation of the OTRK Hadès had to hang the launcher on jacks, remove the tents, take their places and receive data on the target from the command post. Further, information about the required trajectory was entered into the missile automation, after which it was possible to raise the launcher to a vertical position and give a launch command. After that, all responsibility for hitting the target was assumed by the onboard automation of the rocket. The crew of the complex, in turn, could use a second missile or leave the position.
The development of the Hadès project continued for several years. In 1988, a prototype of the new technology was presented for testing. At one of the French test sites, the undercarriages of the complex were tested, after which the missile tests began. During 1988, seven test launches were carried out. All these checks were carried out with single starts. It was planned to complete the tests by shooting a full ammunition load, but this did not happen. For some reason, the testers were unable to obtain permission to conduct such tests. Nevertheless, the complex showed its capabilities and was recommended for adoption.
The possible combat use of missiles was seen by the French military as follows. In the event of the outbreak of a hypothetical conflict with the Warsaw Pact Organization, the OTRK "Hades" were to become one of the means of protecting France on the distant borders. The characteristics of this weapon made it possible to strike at targets on the territory of the GDR and other allied countries of the Soviet Union. In addition, strikes on an advancing enemy moving through the territory of friendly states were not ruled out.
After the completion of the tests, the military department issued an order to the industry for the production of serial equipment. Initially, at the time of the beginning of the development of the project, it was planned to order several dozen launchers and 120 missiles. Nevertheless, due to the change in the military-political situation in Europe, the order was reduced to 15 combat vehicles and 30 missiles for them. The warming of relations between the leading countries, the disintegration of the ATS and other characteristic features of that time made it possible to do without the mass production of missile systems.
Rocket launch. Photo Military-today.com
New equipment, produced in small quantities, was received only by the 15th artillery regiment, which had previously operated the Pluton OTRK. The first vehicles of the new type were handed over to the regiment in 1992. Interestingly, the Hades complexes were never fully operational. Back in September 1991, French President François Mitterrand announced the rejection of the introduction of a new type of missile systems into operation. This technique was sent to the reserve. It was supposed to be used only in case of serious danger.
By mid-1992, the industry had completed an order for 15 launchers and 30 missiles. After that, their production was curtailed and no longer resumed. All new vehicles and missiles for them were transferred to the 15th artillery regiment. Other units that were armed with the Pluton system did not receive new equipment.
The emergence of the Hadès complexes allowed the French army to begin decommissioning the outdated Pluto systems, which did not meet the current requirements for a long time, and, moreover, did not fit into the current military-political situation. Soon, the 15th artillery regiment, which kept the reserve "Hades", became the only unit of the French army with operational-tactical missile systems.
OTRK Hadès remained in reserve until early 1996, when the country's leadership decided to completely abandon such equipment. In February 1996, the new president, Jacques Chirac, announced a radical overhaul of France's nuclear forces. The deterrent force was now to be based only on submarine ballistic missiles and air-launched missiles. All ground-based missile systems were subject to decommissioning and disposal. Soon, the dismantling of silo launchers for strategic missiles and the disposal of operational-tactical complexes began. The last Hadès missile was destroyed in June 1997. Two years later, the dismantling of all infrastructure facilities necessary for the use of such complexes was completed.
The Hadès operational-tactical missile system could become one of the best systems of its class that appeared in the nineties of the last century. Nevertheless, the harsh reality and geopolitical situation in Europe had a serious impact on the fate of this development. It was possible to bring the complex to mass production only in the early nineties, when the situation already made it possible to do without such equipment. Later, Hades found no place in the renewed structure of the French nuclear forces. As a result, the entire short "career" of one and a half dozen combat vehicles consisted of being kept in storage, without official commissioning and without real prospects.