Joachim Sucker, director of the executive administration of OCCAR – the French abbreviation for the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation – and Anne Diaz De Tuesta, the managing director of Eurosam – a defence industrial joint venture between MBDA and Thales – signed a new European air defence contract amendment.

Signed in Paris, France on 30th January 2024, this amendment is the 14th update to the FSAF-PAAMS agreement. This programme was originally founded in October 1988 as a Franco-Italian venture in the development of anti-air missiles.

Since then the programme has reached a stage of serving as a sustainment and enhancement (S&E) contract. Principal Anti-Air Missile Systems (PAAMS) are new weapon systems based on common elements developed in the frame of the original FSAF programme.

OCCAR now manages the munition procurement programme for land and maritime systems on behalf of the participating states to achieve greater, cost effective economies of scale.

France, Italy and the UK to benefit from missiles, systems and upgrades

The 14th amendment now stipulates several offerings to the air defence portfolios of France, Italy and the UK.

Firstly, the industrial supplier, Eurosam, will produce Aster 30 B1 and Aster 30 B1NT surface-to-air missiles for land and maritime air defence for the Italian armed forces.

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This effort comes under an existing contract in which OCCAR ensures the supply of Aster missiles to France and Italy.

Secondly, the amendment will begin production of SAMP/T NG land-based air defence system sections.

Eurosam will produce “four SAMP/T NG sections for the Italian Army, and supplementary activities for France with the aim to secure the future launch of the full serial production of SAMP/T NG sections for the French Air Force.”

Lastly, this contractual change includes the supplementary procurement of additional equipment for the UK to bring about mid-life upgrades to its Aster missile production.

The MLU Aster production has been ongoing since 2021 for all three nations. OCCAR and industry met these first deliveries for France and Italy in December 2023.

Aster missiles and SAMP/T NG missile defence systems

The Aster 30 SAMP/T is a land-based air defence system effective against high-speed threats such as tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, combat aircraft and UCAVs (uncrewed combat air vehicles).

The full-scale development of the Aster 30 missile and the SAMP/T started in 1990, with production engineering and initial volume production in 1997. Qualification firing trials began in 1999.

SAMP/T began operational evaluation with the French and Italian armies in May 2008 with two successful test firings.

MBDA is the original equipment manufacturer developing the Aster block 2 missiles for the SAMP/T launcher with long range and different trajectories to defeat future ballistic missile threats.

MQST3 Firing Aster 30 SAMP/T. Credit: MBDA.

The maximum speed of Aster 30 is 1.4 kilometres (km)/sec and the missile has the capability to intercept targets at altitudes from 50 metres (m) to 20km.

The maximum range of the Aster 30 is 100km against aircraft targets flying at altitudes above 3km. At aircraft targets with altitudes below 3km, the range of Aster 30 is 50km.

A typical SAMP/T battery includes a command and control vehicle, Arabel radar and up to six transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicles, each with eight missiles and a store of reload missiles. The missile TEL vehicles are dispersed to launch sites located up to 10km from the Arabel radar.