Like other major players of the Cold War (1947-1991), the nation of France invested heavily in a stock of nuclear weapons for its inventory. One of the key delivery systems became a tracked vehicle based on the chassis of the AMX-30 tank already in circulation with French armed forces. Coupled with a new missile designed to succeed the aging American-originated "Honest John", the vehicle became known as the "Pluton" missile delivery system. It entered service in 1974 and held an operational-level presence in the French inventory up until 1993. The French concern of SNIAS managed its production.
The French Army arranged no fewer than five regiments armed with the Pluton missile delivery system. The missile itself was a short-ranged tactical ballistic missile charged with rapid response to Soviet aggression - most likely to originate from East Germany and entering France by way of West German soil. The missile, sitting partially exposed in a hardened housing atop the vehicle, utilized a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) and carried either nuclear or conventional warheads for the battlefield missile role. The missile relied on a single-stage solid fueled rocket booster and ranged out to 120 kilometers, reaching speeds of 1,100 meters per second. Guidance was through inertial means. The projectile measured 7.6 meters long and weighed 2,400 kilograms. Firing was through an accompanying Berliet 6x6 military truck which carried the necessary comms equipment.
A crew of four operated the Pluton vehicle and operating weight reached 36,000 kilograms. Road ranges reached 370 miles and speeds topped at 65 kmh from the Renault-Saviem HS110 12-cylinder diesel engine fitted. No self-defense weapons were installed.
One of the key limitations of the Pluton missile system was its range so the "Super Pluton" was proposed as a successor. However, the "Hades" nuclear weapon was furthered instead - leading the Pluton series to be slowly retired from service during the early 1990s.