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French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle successfully transfers Aster missile to BRF Jacques Chevallier.

According to information published by the French MoD on May 13, 2024, the French Navy has successfully conducted the first-ever at-sea transfer of an Aster missile between the supply ship BRF Jacques Chevallier and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (CDG). The operation required meticulous planning and precision.
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Aster missile on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. (Picture source: French Navy)

The transfer of Aster missiles between ships is a highly coordinated and technically complex process that significantly enhances naval defensive capabilities. The Aster missile family, developed by MBDA, includes both the Aster 15 and Aster 30 variants, designed for intercepting high-performance air threats such as aircraft, UAVs, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles.

This process begins with meticulous planning and coordination between the participating ships. Synchronizing their movements and communication is crucial to ensure a seamless transfer. Aster missiles are housed in vertical launching systems (VLS) such as the Sylver or the American Mark 41, which facilitate the rapid deployment of these missiles. The Sylver VLS, for instance, can launch eight missiles in under ten seconds.

The transfer of missiles typically employs underway replenishment (UNREP) techniques. During UNREP, ships sail in close parallel courses at matched speeds, allowing for the extension of a fuel line or cargo rig between them.

This setup enables the physical transfer of missiles in specialized containers, ensuring safe passage from one ship to another. Throughout this process, stringent safety protocols are adhered to, including secure packaging, continuous monitoring of sea conditions, and readiness to abort the transfer if necessary.

Once transferred, the receiving ship integrates the new missiles into its VLS and fire control systems. This integration involves comprehensive system checks and often live firing tests to ensure compatibility and operational readiness.

For example, the Sea Viper system on Type 45 destroyers utilizes SAMPSON and S1850M radars to track and engage multiple targets simultaneously, showcasing the advanced capabilities of Aster missiles​​.

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