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Surface Vessel Weapon System
Aster 15 / Aster 30 SAM
 
 
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The Aster missile series, primarily comprising the Aster 15 and Aster 30 are a family of vertically launched surface-to-air missiles. The name "Aster" originates from the ancient Greek word aster, meaning "star". Aster is manufactured by EuroSAM, a European consortium consisting of MBDA France, MBDA Italy (combined 66%) and the Thales Group (33%). The missile is designed to intercept and destroy a wide range of air threats, such as supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles at very low altitude (Sea-skimming) and fast flying, high performance aircraft or missiles.

Aster is primarily operated by France, Italy, and the United Kingdom and is an integrated component of the PAAMS air-defence missile system, known in the Royal Navy as Sea Viper. As the principal weapon of the PAAMS system, Aster equips the Type 45 destroyers and the Horizon class frigates. Aster also equips the French and Italian FREMM multipurpose frigates, though they will not be operating as part of a PAAMS air-defence suite.

Although the Aster 30 is anti-ballistic missile capable, an Aster Block 2 BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) variant of the Aster 30 missile, with Hit-To-Kill and exo-atmospheric capability, is currently being developed.


History:

During the 1980s, the predominant missiles in Franco-Italian service were short-range systems such as the French Crotale, Italian Aspide or American Sea Sparrow, with ranges up to a dozen kilometres. Some vessels were also equipped with the American medium/long range Standard. France and Italy decided to start development of a domestic medium/long range surface-to-air missile to enter service in the first decade of this millennium, that would give them comparable range but superior interception capability to the American Standard or British Sea Dart already in service.

Thought was given in particular to the new missile's ability to intercept next-generation supersonic anti-ship missiles, such as the Brahmos missile developed jointly by India and Russia. This allowed the actual systems to have the characteristic of being specialised either in short-to-medium range "point defence" (ships, for instance), or in medium-to-long range "zone defence" (fleets).

In May 1989, a Memorandum of understanding was signed between France and Italy for the development of a family of future surface-to air-missiles. Eurosam was formed shortly afterwards. By July 1995 development had taken shape in the form of the Aster missile and test firing of the first Aster 30 took place. The missile successfully intercepted a target at an altitude of 15,000 m and at speeds of 1000 km/h. A Phase 2 contract was awarded in 1997 at US$ 1 billion for pre-production and development of the French-Italian land and naval systems.

During development trials between 1993 and 1994 all flight sequences, altitudes and ranges, were validated. This was also the period during which the launch sequence of Aster 30 was validated. In May 1996, trials of the Aster 15 active electromagnetical final guidance system against live targets began. All six attempts were successful. Again during 1997 Aster was extensively tested, this time being pitted against targets such as the C22 target and first generation Exocet anti-ship missiles. In numerous engagements Aster scored direct impacts on its targets. During one such engagement on 13 November 1997 in a strong countermeasures environment, the Aster was not armed with its military warhead so that the distance between the Aster and the target could be recorded. The target (a C22) was recovered bearing two strong cuts due to the fins of the Aster missile.

In May 2001 Aster had again successfully completed the "manufacturer's validation firing test" and was deployed for the first time on the French nuclear-powered aircraft carriers Charles de Gaulle (R91). Again on the 29 June 2001 achieved a successful interception of a Arabel missile at low altitude in less than five seconds. During the same year a target simulating an aircraft flying at speeds of Mach 1 and at an altitude of 100 meters was intercepted by an Aster 15. The first ever operational firing of the Aster missile took place during October 2002 on board Charles de Gaulle. Finally in November 2003 Eurosam was awarded the 3 billion euro Phase 3 production contract which saw full production commence and exports to France, Italy, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. The resulting Aster surface-to-air missile meets inter-service and international requirements, addressing the needs of the land, air and naval forces of France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The decision to base the missile around a common terminal intercept 'dart' to which different sized boosters can be attached has made it modular and extensible.

From 2002 to 2005, the Italian experimental frigate Carabiniere (F581) provided a test bed for live firing trials of the Aster 15 from Sylver A43 launchers with EMPAR and SAAM-it systems, and the trials of Aster 30 from Sylver A50 launchers with EMPAR and PAAMS(E) systems. As of 2012, France has spent €4.1bn at 2010 prices on 10 SAMP/T launchers, 375 Aster 30 missiles and 200 Aster 15 missiles. Another 80 Aster 30 and 40 Aster 15 have been bought for France's Horizon-class frigates under a separate programme.


Characteristics:

Aster is best described as an anti-missile missile that is capable of intercepting all types of high performance air threats such as; aircraft, UAVs, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles at ranges of up to 120 km. There are currently two versions of the Aster missile family, the short range version, Aster 15 and the long range version, Aster 30. The missile bodies are identical; Their difference in range and intercept speed is because Aster 30 uses a much larger booster. Total weights of the Aster 15 and Aster 30 are 310 kg and 450 kg respectively. Aster 15 has a length of 4.2 meters, rising to just under 5 meters for Aster 30. Aster 15 has a diameter of 180mm.

Given the larger dimensions of the Aster 30, a naval based system requires the longer tubes of the Sylver A50 or A70 vertical launching system (VLS). Additionally the American Mark 41 Vertical Launching System can accommodate Aster 30.

Aster 30 is capable of reaching speeds of Mach 4.5 while reaching altitudes of 20 km and is capable of performing aerial manoeuvres greater than 60 Gs giving it a very high degree of manoeuvrability. This is thanks to the combination of aerodynamic control and the direct thrust vector control called "PIF-PAF". Thrust vectors are intentionally located at the missile's centre of gravity maximising responsiveness. This system also prevents a rupture of the missile under high-g maneuvers during trajectory corrections, and allows such maneuvers to be performed without losing aerodynamic performances, improving the precision of the impact on target. A standard launch of the Aster can include 90-degree trajectory changes.

Eurosam describes Aster as a "hit-to-kill Missile Interceptor".

The Aster missile is autonomously guided enabling it to cope with saturated attacks and is equipped with an active RF seeker. The shipboard radar fulfills roles of sentry, meteo, target discrimination, acquisition and chase. When coupled with the advanced PAAMS air-defence system utilizing the SAMPSON and S1850M radars (as found on the British Type 45 destroyers), Aster is capable of simultaneously targeting and engaging multiple targets at once. MBDA states Aster is capable of "Multiple engagement capability with high rate of fire".


Variants:

Aster 15 - Ship point and local area defence
Aster 30 Block 0 - Ship local and wide area defence
Aster 30 Block 1 - Ground-based wide area defence capable against 600 km-range ballistic missiles such as Scud-B
Aster 30 Block 1NT (New Technology) - wide area defence capable against 1500 km-range ballistic missiles
Aster 30 Block 2 - wide area defence capable against 3000 km-range ballistic missiles

Block 1 is used in the Eurosam SAMP/T system operated by the French Air Force and the Italian Army. As of 2014, the development of Block 1NT is being funded by France and Italy. Block 2 would not be delivered until after 2020.


Operational history:

In April 2008, the Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable class frigate RSS Intrepid shot down an aerial drone off the French port of Toulon during a naval exercise. Then again in 2010, a frigate of the same class, RSS Supreme fired an Aster 15 and shot down an aerial drone off the coast of Hawaii as part of exercise RIMPAC 2010.

In September 2010, off the Outer Hebrides at the Benbecula ranges, HMS Dauntless (D33) became the first Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to shoot an Aster missile and hit its target. The target, a 13-foot Mirach drone, can fly more than 600 mph at altitudes from 10 feet to 40,000 feet.

In May 2011, HMS Daring (D32), the first of the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers, fired its Aster missiles for the first time. The shoot took place off the Outer Hebrides at the Benbecula ranges in Scotland. Daring intercepted and destroyed its target, a Mirach drone. Daring was not the first Type 45 to fire its primary weapon. This was due to initial manufacturing defects on a batch of production Aster missiles exported to the UK. The defect was found after consecutive failures during testing, thus stalling the Royal Navy's attempts to fire the Aster missiles during late 2009.

In December 2011, an Aster 30 missile downed an Israeli Black Sparrow ballistic missile target, the first time an Aster missile had attempted such an engagement.

In April 2012, the French Navy downed an American GQM-163 Coyote target simulating a sea-skimming supersonic anti-ship cruise missile traveling at Mach 2.5 (3000 km/h) with an altitude of less than 5 metres. The Aster 30 missile was fired by the Horizon-class frigate Forbin (D620); also present during the shoot was Forbin's sister ship Chevalier Paul (D621). It was the first time a European missile defence system destroyed a supersonic sea-skimming "missile". The trial was described as a "complex operational scenario".

In May 2012, HMS Diamond (D34) was the third Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to hit its target, a Mirach drone, with an Aster. The firing took place off the Outer Hebrides at the Benbecula ranges in Scotland.

In July 2012, HMS Dragon (D35) was the fourth Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to hit its target, a Mirach drone, with an Aster. The firing took place off the Outer Hebrides at the Benbecula ranges in Scotland.

In May 2014, HMS Defender (D36) was the fifth Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to hit its target, a Mirach drone, with an Aster.


Deployment:

Naval systems:

Type 45 / Daring-class Destroyer
HORIZON-class Destroyer/Frigate
FREMM multipurpose Frigate
Formidable-class Frigate
Al Riyadh-class Frigate
Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier
Cavour Aircraft Carrier
Kalaat Béni Abbès-class Amphibious Ship


Launching system: DCNS Sylver A43/A50 VLS

source: wikipedia (2016)
  

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