MBDA has announced two successful launches of its Aster surface to air missiles. Both launches, which took place on May 18 and 19, were from the Italian Navy’s Cavour aircraft carrier.
The launches were to test the effectiveness of the SAAM/IT system (Surface-to-Air Anti-Missile for Italy) were carried out: one in “autonomous” (self-controlled) mode and the other in “integrated” mode, controlled by the combat system. The autonomous mode launch was intended to test the SAAM/IT system’s ability to search, identify and intercept an attacking sea-skimmer missile as a direct threat to the ship herself.
The purpose of the integrated trial was to demonstrate the combat management system’s ability to target threats and to designate the SAAM/IT system to neutralise a threat similar to a sea-skimmer missile. In both trials, the threat was simulated using a MIRACH aerial target, configured as a missile. MBDA reports that both launches were entirely successful and the Aster missiles completed their tasks as required.
Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA, announced: “These successful launches are further proof of MBDA’s technical capacities”.
Antonio Perfetti, Managing Director and CEO of MBDA Italia and Executive Group Director Sales & Business Development MBDA Group, pointed out: “The success of these launches demonstrates to all our domestic and export clients that the SAAM/IT system is now fully operational”.
The Aster family of surface-to-air missiles are being developed by MBDA within the Franco-Italian FSAF (Future Surface-to-Air Family) programme. Under this programme, France and Italy agreed to develop and produce a family of naval platform and ground based air defence systems for the armed forces of both countries. A subsequent trilateral agreement signed between France, Italy and the United Kingdom resulted in the development of a third naval air defence system using the Aster family of missiles known as PAAMS (Principal Anti-Air Missile System).
There are several variants of Aster. The SAAM variant uses the 30 km range Aster 15 missile to defend against missiles and aircraft and is intended for maritime use. The system comprises a fire control system with multifunction electronic scanning radar, Sylver vertical launchers each containing eight ready-to-fire missiles and the Aster 15 anti-missile missiles. The French Navy will use the Thales ARABEL radar while the Italian Navy will deploy the Selex Integrated Systems EMPAR radar.
The SAAM system was first fired in 1999 from the French Ile d’Oléron experimental ship when a direct hit was registered on a manoeuvring sea-skimming target. In the same year installation on board the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was completed. The French SAAM/FR system was qualified in December 2001.
On 30th October 2002, Aster 15 was successfully test fired using the complete SAAM system for the first time from the Charles de Gaulle, registering a direct frontal hit and totally destroying a target simulating an attacking anti-ship missile. Operational firings were carried out between December 2004 and May 2006.
The first qualification firing of an Aster 15 missile for the Italian SAAM/IT system took place in November 2001 from the Italian Carabiniere experimental ship. SAAM/IT system qualification was completed in December 2003. In July 2006 installation of the system was completed on board the Italian Navy’s Conti di Cavour aircraft carrier.
A total of 200 Aster 15 naval missiles have already been ordered to equip 11 naval defence systems intended for the nuclear-powered French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the Italian aircraft carrier, Conti di Cavour, the three F3000S frigates for the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy and a further six foreign frigates. The SAAM air defence system will also provide the anti-air warfare capability on the new Franco-Italian FREMM multi-mission frigates.
The Aster has been designed for other missions as well. The Integrated Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) using Aster 15 and 30 missiles, selected by Italian, French and British navies, is designed for ship and area defence while the Superficie-Aria Media Portata Terrestre (Italian for Ground-based Surface-to-Air Medium Range, SAMP/T) system using Aster 30 missiles is for ground-based area defence.