The Paseo XLR, this QuickWin of the French Navy against Houthi drones

On December 9, 2023, the French frigate Languedoc (D643), on a mission off the coast of Yemen, used its weapons for the first time to intercept aerial drones launched by the Houthi rebels. This was the first operational use of the Aster anti-aircraft missile, which ended in remarkable success.

Quickly, however, a controversy grew on social networks. Indeed, the Aster 15 missile costs significantly more than the drones used by the Houthis. Furthermore, with only 16 missiles in firing position, Languedoc could quickly find itself without ammunition in the event of a saturation attack launched against it, or the ships being escorted.

The French Navy then justified the use of the missile, explaining that it was necessary to compare not the price of the missile, but that of the protected target, with the price of the drone. However, the observations made at that time remained valid, especially since it is impossible to place new missiles in silos when the ship is at sea. 

The French Navy has not remained inactive on this subject. Indeed, the Alsace frigate, also a FREMM, but specialized in air defense, who relieved Languedoc in the Red Sea a few days ago, arrived in the area with new equipment designed to face this emerging threat, the Paseo XLR electro-optical detection system from French company Safran.

The Alsace air defense frigate destroyed Houthi drones using its 76 mm cannon

The role, like the effectiveness of the Paseo XLR, was quick to be highlighted. Indeed, on the morning of March 9, the fFrench regatta Alsace intervened against three Houthi attack drones. For this, it did not use its expensive Aster missiles, but its 76 mm cannon, eminently less expensive, to shoot down the drones, thus preserving its 32 Aster 15 and 30 missiles, to face threats more difficult, or more distant.

76 mm FREMM cannon
Houthi drones were shot down by the French frigate Alsace using its 76mm OTO-Melara gun

These concomitant successes were made possible thanks to the detection and targeting information provided by the Paseo XLR, positioned on either side of the ship's ports, covering almost the entire perimeter, and transmitted, via the combat system, to the cannon and its STIR fire control.

They also show, beyond the effectiveness of the system, the confidence of the French Navy in this system. Indeed, where an Aster 15 can intercept a target up to 50 km away, guaranteeing a significant safety distance to react in the event of failure of the interception, the 76 mm cannon only carries 8 km.

To intercept the Houthi drones, the commander of the French frigate therefore had to wait until the targets were within range, further reducing his options in the event of failure, even if the drones are known to be slow. He therefore had complete confidence in his detection, engagement and interception system, to do so, in order to preserve his precious surface-to-air missiles, apparently three times.

The Paseo XLR, an electro-optical detection system initially designed for land combat

This success was made possible thanks to the new Paseo XLR electro-optical system for Extra Long Range. It is a detection system designed to monitor, detect, identify, track and engage multiple air and naval targets simultaneously, using highly accurate infrared and video channels.

EBRC Jaguar Paseo
The Jaguar EBRC is equipped with the Paseo electro-optical system, notably for targeting its 40 mm CTA cannon.

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