MBDA and Thales to produce mid-life refurbishment of ASTER missiles for Italy and UK

According to information published on June 9, 2021, Eurosam, the Franco Italian consortium, which is co-owned by MBDA and Thales, signed a contract with OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement / Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation) for the production of the mid-life refurbishment of ASTER missiles for Italy and the United-Kingdom.
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The SAMP/T is an air defense missile system that launches the Aster 30 surface-to-air missile. (Picture source MBDA)

It follows the one signed in January 2020 for the French ASTER missiles. All our domestic customers have now ordered the refurbishment of their ASTER missiles in service: the French, Italian and United Kingdom navies, the Italian Army and the French Air and Space force.

The refurbishment will be performed during the following years in the respective national maintenance centers: the MBDA premises in Selles-Saint-Denis (center of France), the CIMA (Centro Interfoze Munizionamento Avanzato) in Aulla, located near MBDA La Spezia site in Italy, and in DMG Gosport, located near Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. The contract for this refurbishment has been an opportunity to implement the latest environmental rules (REACH) in the production process and waste disposal will be managed in factories that have been built at the latest environmental standards.

This contract guarantees the best efficiency of the systems based on ASTER missiles, maintaining the capability to assure the customers’ airspace sovereignty, by protecting their territory and population and their troops and fleets in operations.

This signature has taken place after three successful Aster firings performed during the NATO exercise “Formidable Shield 2021” the main air defense and anti-missile exercise, which saw the participation of assets from 10 navies and was held during the second half of May at the MOD Hebrides Range in Scotland, UK. During Exercise ASTER 30 were successfully launched by the French, Italian and United Kingdom warships, enhancing the position of the Aster missile as a major contributor of European defense.

Aster missiles represent the cornerstone of Europe’s air defense programs. For naval-based air defense, they are operational on the latest vessels brought into service by three of Europe’s major navies: Italy, France and the United Kingdom. For ground-based air defense, the current SAMP/T configuration with its multifunction passive antenna radar is successfully operated in France and Italy since 2011. Thanks to its 360° capability this system already provides protection of vital assets against an omnidirectional threat, large areas well over 15 000 km² at an effective altitude well over 20 000 meters (vertical) and distance well over 50km (horizontal).

A new generation of SAMP/T, called SAMP/T NG, has been ordered, earlier this year, by France and Italy, and will be delivered from 2025. The SAMP/T NG will ensure protection against new challenging threats and allow the implementation of new operational concepts. This system will notably feature a new 360° multifunction radar fitted with a rotating Active Electronically Scanned Array Antenna and an enlarged ASTER family including an enhanced missile: the ASTER Block 1 NT (new technology) with a new seeker and a new computer able to face the new emerging threats. It will enable a radar detection range exceeding 300 km and an intercept range of 150 km.

Aster missiles for naval or ground-based air defense systems are also in service with several other armed forces around the world.

The Aster missile family comprises Aster 15 for short to medium range air defense and Aster 30 for short to long-range air defense. Both variants are vertically launched and autonomously guided to provide the best means of coping with saturating attacks. ASTER missiles provide ships with an all-around anti-missile and anti-air capability to ensure self-defense and consort protection. In addition, ASTER 30 also provides long-range interception capability for area defense.

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