European missile-maker MBDA has announced that France and Italy have signed a cooperation arrangement to jointly develop the Aster 30 Block 1 NT missile.
The Aster 30 Block 1 NT programme not only covers the upgradation of the missile, but also includes the modernisation of the Aster 30-SAMP/T systems currently in service with the French Air Force and the Italian Army.
Upon completion of the modernisation, the systems of the SAMP/T medium range surface-to-air missile will feature enhanced capabilities against ballistic missiles.
MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier said: "The Aster missile programme is Europe's most ambitious tactical missile programme.
"The two countries, which have carried out this programme for many years, have just laid out a robust route map that will see the Aster programme well into the next decade, which will help to sustain industrial know how for many years to come and which is key to ensuring French and Italian sovereignty.
"Aster is in fact much more than a missile. It is a whole family of air defence and anti-missile systems which has been adopted by 11 armed forces around the world."
The French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) notified a contract to the EUROSAM consortium involving MBDA and Thales in 2015, as part of the Aster 30 Block 1 NT programme.
The DGA-led programme is backed by Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'Armement (OCCAR).
Under the contract, the first Aster 30 Block 1 NT missiles will be delivered to the French Air Force in 2023.
The Italian ground-based air defence units are similarly equipped with the SAMP/T system.
Image: The Aster 30 Block 1 NT is the new version of the Aster 30 Block 1 missile. Photo: courtesy of MBDA.