Aster (missile family)
Short/medium range surface-air anti-aircraft and anti-missile missile.
Long range anti-aircraft, anti-missile missile.
|Weight||Aster 15: 310 kg
Aster 30: 450 kg
|Length||Aster 15: 4.2 m
Aster 30: 4.9 m
|Engine||Solid propellant two-stage rocket.
|Aster 15: 1.7–30 km
Aster 30: 3–120 km
|Flight altitude||Aster 15: 13 km
Aster 30: 20 km
|Speed||Aster 15: Mach 3 (1,000 m/s)
Aster 30: Mach 4.5 (1,500m/s)
The Aster missiles, comprising the Aster 15 and Aster 30, are a family of vertically launched surface-to-air missiles. The name "Aster" originates from the mythical Greek archer named Asterion (in Greek mythology), Asterion likewise receiving his name from the ancient Greek word aster (Greek: ἀστήρ), 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 principle weapon of the PAAMS system, Aster equips the Type 45 destroyers and the Horizon class frigates. Aster is also equipping the French and Italian FREMM multipurpose frigates, though they will not be operating as part of a PAAMS air-defence suite.
During the 1980s, the predominant missiles in Franco-Italian service were short-range, 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 developlemt 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.
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. Although being identical, the two missiles differ significantly in range and speed of intercept, this is simply because of the size of their respective boosters - with the size of the booster on the Aster 30 being far larger. 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 and 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 30 km and is capable of performing aerial manoeuvres greater than 60 Gs giving it a very high degree of manoeuverability. 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".
- Aster 15 - Ship point defence
- Aster 30 Block 0 - Ship local and area defence
- Aster 30 Block 1 - Ground-based area defence capable against 600km-range ballistic missiles such as Scud-B
- Aster 30 Block 1NT (New Technology) - area defence capable against 1000km-range ballistic missiles
- Aster 30 Block 2 - area defence capable against 3000km-range ballistic missiles
Block 1 is used in the Eurosam SAMP/T system operated by the French Air Force and the Italian Army.
Flight tests 
- 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) was the first Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to successfully shoot an Aster missile and proceed to intercept its target. The target was a Mirach drone. Mirach is a 13 ft jet which flies at speeds of up to of 530kts (more than 600 mph) from altitudes as low as 10 ft or as high as 40,000 ft.
- In May 2011, HMS Daring (D32) the first of the class of the Royal Navys Type 45 destroyers successfully 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. Although being the first destroyer of the Type 45 class, Daring was not the first 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 Navys attempts to successfully fire the Aster missiles during late 2009.
- In December 2011, an Aster 30 missile intercepted and downed an Israeli Black Sparrow ballistic missile target. It was the first time an Aster missile had attempted such an engagement. The shoot confirmed Asters anti-ballistic missile capability.
- In April 2012, the French Navy successfully shot and downed an American GQM-163 Coyote target. The GQM-163 Coyote was simulating a sea-skimming supersonic anti-ship cruise missile traveling at speeds of 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 Forbins sister ship Chevalier Paul (D621). The successful shooting represents the first time a European missile defence system has intercepted and 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 successfully intercept its target with an Aster missile. 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 successfully intercept its target with an Aster missile. The firing took place off the Outer Hebrides at the Benbecula ranges in Scotland. Dragon's Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Duncan MacRae, of the Royal Australian Navy said: "This was a great demonstration of the capability of a Type 45 and a reassurance of system performance."
|This section requires expansion. (September 2012)|
Land systems 
Aster 30 has been successfully incorporated into a land based SAM system - fulfilling the "Ground-based area defence" mission requirement. It comes in the form of the Eurosam SAMP/T (Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain. The French Ministry of Defence initially placed orders for six SAMP/T systems for the French Army and six systems for the French Air Force, however by 2012 the order was reduced to ten systems and all will now be operated by the Air Force. It is intended that they will provide mobile air-defence for strategically important locations at home or abroad - primarily military air bases. SAMP/T is currently equipping five squadrons of air defence (EDSA) in the French Air Force and has been operational since 2010. SAMP/T is primarily mounted on a Renault 8x4 Kerax transporter erector launcher vehicle, it is fitted with eight missiles - all of which can be salvo-fired in under ten seconds.
Eurosam also received an order for six SAMP/T systems for the Italian Army, the first units of which are already in service. It is mounted on an Astra 8x8 transporter erector launcher trucks, each truck with eight missiles.
The system uses a network of sophisticated radars and sensors - including 3D phased array radar - enabling it to be highly effective against all types of air threats. And Italy is considering adding BMD capabilities to the SAMP/T.
Current operators 
Potential operators 
See also 
- European defence procurement
- Type 45 destroyer
- RIM-174 Standard ERAM - a comparable US Navy surface-to-air missile.
- Barak 8
- MBDA - Aster PDF
- Eurosam - Aster
- Interception d’une cible supersonique évoluant au ras de l’eau. (In French)
- Ballistic missile intercepted by Aster 30
- Aster Block 2/BMD
- Eurosam - Program milestones
- ASTER hit-to-kill Missile Interceptors
- Details of the Asters trajectory change manoeuvre
- Tran, Pierre (12 May 2013). "MBDA Positioned to Score Big in 3 Deals". Defense News.
- ASTER - SAMP/T
- Royal Navy - Sea Viper
- MOD - HMS Daring fires Sea Viper for first time, 19 May 2011.
- MBDA reports Aster 30 test success
- MOD - HMS Diamond fires Sea Viper missile for first time, 1 May 2012.
- Diamond fires her main weapon for the first time, 1 May 2012.
- HMS Dragon spits Sea Viper fire
- Aster 30 SAMP/T
- "Italy considers enhancing Aster SAMP/T with anti-ballistic capability."
- Missile Test Successful for The Shield of Poland, 8 December 2011.
- Eurosam SAMP/T Aster 30, a competitor for a $5.5 billion Turkish weapons purchase, 10 June 2012.
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