MBDA prepares the Aster 15 EC, twice as efficient as the Aster 15

The Aster missile family will soon expand, with the arrival of the Aster 15 EC. Entering service from 2001, these anti-aircraft missiles constituted a true cultural revolution in air defense. For the first time, in fact, Westerners were able to rely on a non-American (or Soviet) system to ensure medium and long range air defense of their sites or their ships.

The Aster range consisted of two missiles. The Aster 30, equipped with a long-range booster, allowed the missile to reach a range greater than 120 km, and an altitude of 20 km.

The Aster 15 was more compact, 4,2 meters compared to 4,9 m, and lighter, 310 kg compared to 450. Although it retained the extreme maneuverability of the Aster family, and an active radar seeker of very high efficiency, it was only given to have a range greater than 30 km, 45 km being however often mentioned by the specialist press.

At that time, other medium-range missiles only achieved a lower range, 42 km for the Russian 9M37 Buk, 40 km for the American ESSM and 30 km for the Norwegian NASAMS.

Since then, these systems have progressed significantly, and all reach 50 km range, including the ESSM, NASAMS and the German Iris-t SLM, sometimes more, 70 km for the 9M37 missile of the Buk-M3. It was therefore necessary for the Aster 15 to evolve, as the Aster 30 did with Block 0, Block 1 and Block 1NT. This is precisely what MBDA is now dedicated to.

The excellent behavior of the Aster family in the face of Houthi drones and missiles

Although it entered service in 2001, the Aster missile had never had combat experience, until the engagements in the Red Sea beginning at the end of 2023 against Houthi drones and anti-ship missiles, and in Ukraine against missiles and drones. Russians.

ASter frigate Alsace
The Languedoc and Alsace frigates of the French Navy fired more than 22 Aster 15 and 30 missiles into the Red Sea.

The European missile had shown, until then, remarkable qualities, but during test firings and exercises, including international ones, in particular concerning the naval versions aboard frigates and destroyers of the French, Italian and even British Navies.

However, not being able to rely on the “Combat Proven” label, nor on the precedence of the European missile maker in the field of long-range anti-aircraft missiles, the Aster had a lot of difficulty establishing itself in international competitions, especially against the American Patriot, SM-2 and ESSM.

As such, the intensive use made of Aster frigates of the Royal Navy, the National Navy and the Marina Militare, against Houthi drones and cruise missiles, with an excellent success rate, marks a radical shift in the image of the missile on the international scene.

This is especially true since the French frigate Alsace has become the first European ship to successfully intercept not one, but three ballistic missiles anti-ships, propelling the Aster to the same level as the American Patriot PAC and SM-6.

The Aster 15 EC missile will take over from the Aster 15 in 2030

To respond to the evolution of the threat, and that of competition, MBDA has therefore undertaken, in 2023, to develop a new version of the Aster 15. Named Aster 15 EC, this missile must enter service in 2030, initially aboard the 4 SYLVER 43 systems of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, on the occasion of the 3rd and last major technical shutdown of the ship, before being deployed on French frigates.

Aster 15 EC will have a range of more than 60 km
The Aster 15 EC will have a range greater than 60 km, according to MBDA, significantly outperforming the ESSM, NASAMS and IRIS-T SLM.

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  1. “It could well be, under these conditions, that the Franco-Italian (and not Franco-German) Mamba, once approved within the ESSI, will quickly establish itself as a European standard, to the great dismay of Berlin and of the United States, for whom the initiative constituted a very effective stepping stone to take control of European anti-aircraft defense. »

  2. But is it in the pipeline for France to integrate the German initiative? Because she was not keen at the start but given the arguments cited, clearly there is considerable interest in turning the German initiative against her.

    • I know discussions are taking place. But this is not going to be simple, because for France (and Italy) to join the ESSI, it is obvious that Berlin will have to agree to integrate the SAMP/T, as well as the MICA VL NG. And as said in the article, this is not going to work, but not at all, in the interest of Berlin, nor of Washington. In my opinion, we will have to wait until Scholz leaves for this to come to fruition.


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