At Eurosatory 2016 on 14 June, the Italian and French Ministers of Defence, Roberta Pinotti and Jean-Yves Le Drian, inked a Cooperation Agreement under which the two nations commit to joint development of the Aster 30 Block 1 NT missile, development of which was launched in December 2015 by France.
In addition to an upgrade of the Aster 30 Block I’s electronics, the Block 1 NT programme includes modernisation of the SAMP/T ground based system currently in French service, to cater for availability of the new missile from 2023. Both systems will then provide enhanced capabilities, particularly against ballistic missile threats. The Royal Navy is also considering the Aster Block 1 NT to arm its destroyers.
Aster systems play an active role in NATO’s ALTBMD (Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence) in defending allied forces against ballistic threats and, as such, represent a major Franco-Italian contribution to this programme.
To date, 1,600 Aster missiles have been ordered by 11 armed forces customers around the world and Aster-based systems are demonstrating daily their interoperability with the air defence networks of these forces and with those of NATO. The Aster systems of Italy’s Orrizonte frigates took part in establishing the no fly zone over Libya which was put in place by the UN in 2011. The Italian Army’s SAMP/T systems are currently being deployed in Turkey in the NATO Support to Turkey initiative to protect the country from the potential ballistic missile threat emanating from Syria.
Commenting on the event, Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA, declared : ”Today marks a very important date for European defence cooperation and for MBDA in particular. The Aster missile programme is Europe’s most ambitious tactical missile programme. The two countries, which have carried out this programme for many years, have just laid out a robust route map that will see the Aster programme well into the next decade, which will help to sustain industrial know how for many years to come and which is key to ensuring French and Italian sovereignty. Aster is in fact much more than a missile. It is a whole family of air defence and anti-missile systems which has been adopted by 11 armed forces around the world. Aster represents the leading edge of worldwide military capability and as such serves to consolidate the European missile industry.”