Gerboise Bleue mushroom cloud
Gerboise Bleue mushroom cloud
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France tests its first atomic bomb to become the world's fourth nuclear power, code named Gerboise Bleue

Gerboise Bleue ("blue jerboa") was the name of the first French nuclear test. It was an atomic bomb detonated in the middle of the Algerian Sahara desert on 13 February 1960, during the Algerian War (1954-62). General Pierre Marie Gallois was instrumental in the endeavour, and earned the nickname of père de la bombe A ("father of the A-bomb").

Gerboise is the jerboa, a desert rodent, while blue is the first color of the French tricolor flag. So the second and third bombs were named respectively "white" (Gerboise Blanche) and "red" (Gerboise Rouge).

With Gerboise Bleue, France became the fourth nuclear power, after the United States, the USSR, and the United Kingdom. Gerboise Bleue was by far the largest first test bomb up to that date, larger than the American "Trinity" (20 kt), the Soviet "RDS-1" (22 kt), or the British "Hurricane" (25 kt). The yield was 70 kilotons, bigger than these three bombs put together. The second most powerful first-test bomb was "Chagai-I", detonated by Pakistan in 1998, at 40 kilotons.

In comparison, Fat Man, the Nagasaki bomb, was 22 kilotons, one-third as powerful.

Only two other A-bombs tested in the Sahara facilities were more powerful: "Rubis" ( (22 kt) tested on 16 October 1964, and the H-bomb Test No. 6 (3.3 Mt), tested 17 June 1967.

In 1968, France detonated its first thermonuclear weapon, Canopus (2.6Mt), at the new facility at Fangataufa, a desert atoll in French Polynesia.