Air Defense: Aster Expands Capabilities


July 10, 2016: In June 2016 France and Italy agreed to jointly develop an upgrade to the Aster 30 Block 1 missile so that it can intercept ballistic missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers initially and then introduce the Block 2 version that can handle ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. Longer range ballistic missiles move faster when reentering the atmosphere and interceptors need more powerful software, computers and guidance systems to deal with faster moving targets.

Since 2010 the Aster 30 Block 1 anti-aircraft missile has been able to intercept SCUD class (600 kilometer range) ballistic missile. Aster 30 entered service in 2001 and is now operating on warships or in land based versions for nine nations (Algeria, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore) with three more (Canada, Turkey, Sweden) are evaluating Aster.

The land based version operates a battery size units with each battery consisting of eight vehicles; one vehicle for command, another for the phased array radar, and six firing units, each carrying an eight cell canister for storing and firing the half-ton missiles. Additional trucks carry reload missiles and other equipment. The radar has a range of 100 kilometers.

Like the similar U.S. Patriot system, Aster 30 was originally designed to knock down short range ballistic missiles and low flying cruise missiles as well as jets and helicopters. The system is highly automated, requiring only two people to operate it. Each launcher can fire all eight of its missiles in ten seconds, and the control system can track a hundred targets simultaneously while controlling sixteen launched missiles. Targets as low as 50 meters (150 feet), or as high as 20 kilometers (60,000 feet) can be detected and hit. The max range of the missiles, at high altitude targets (like incoming ballistic missiles) is 120 kilometers. At low altitude (under 10,000 feet), max range is 50 kilometers. France has ordered twelve batteries of the ground based version (SAMP/T), while Italy has ordered six. The French army and air force (each are getting six batteries) conducted the test firings to prove that the anti-missile capability worked.

The Aster 30 is a 4.8 meter (15 foot) long, 450 kg (990 pound) two stage missile. Development of the Aster 30 began in 1990, and it was accepted for service in 2001. A shorter range (20 kilometers) version, the Aster 15, is also available. This one is a little shorter and, at 310 kg (682 pounds) lighter with a range of nearly 40 kilometers. Both missiles can be launched from the 48 VLS (Vertical Launch Tubes) on ships or the same box launcher on the land based version.




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