Almost six months after signing a cooperation agreement with France, Italy has formally joined the programme to develop the surface-to-air Aster 30 Block 1 NT (for New Technology) missile. The notification by the European joint armaments’ procurement agency, OCCAR, of the amendment to allow for Italian participation in the Franco-Italian Eurosam consortium between MBDA and Thales, “strengthens the Aster programme well beyond the financial and technological contribution,” said Antoine Bouvier, MBDA’s chief executive, in a press statement.
Launched in December 2015 by France the “B1NT” programme aims to improve the missile’s capabilities, particularly concerning the interception of ballistic threats. Thales will supply a new guidance system in the Ka Band whose frequencies are much more directive than those of the Ku Band which equips the current version of the Aster 30.
This new active guidance system, like a small radar, will concentrate the energy it emits in a narrower band which will double the range of the radar and its angle of detection. The missile will thus detect the target faster and thus allow it to correct its trajectory earlier and more accurately. Once equipped with this new guidance system, the Aster 30 will be able to, amongst other things, intercept a ballistic missile equipped with separable heads in a range of 1,500kms. The current version has a range of 600kms.
The B1NT programme, worth some €550M, also includes the modernisation of the SAMP/T air defence system used by the French Air Force and the Italian Army. Eurosam will also take into account the key dual requirement (same missile for ground and naval Aster systems), including the necessary adjustments to allow the missile to be fired from warships. Italy plans to use the Aster 30 Block 1 NT from its future class of PPA (Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura) offshore patrol vessels.
The members* of the “Aster 30” club could soon be joined by two newcomers: Sweden and Turkey are holding intense discussions with Eurosam for the modernised system.
*France, Italy, United Kingdom; ordered by Qatar.