France and Italy have placed a major joint order for nearly 700 Aster medium-range anti-aircraft missiles, reflecting their common desire to “modernize and sustain their land and naval anti-aircraft defense capabilities”, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces announced on Monday. The Franco-Italian economic interest group Eurosam, bringing together MBDA and Thales, was notified at the end of December of a contract for the production of nearly “700 Aster missiles”, according to a press release published three days after the meeting in Rome between Sébastien Lecornu, French Minister for the Armed Forces, and his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto.
“This order concerns several versions of this unique missile in Europe”, specifies the ministry, which evokes Aster 15 and Aster 30 B1 as well as the last version Aster 30 B1NT.
An Aster 30 missile estimated at 2 million euros
The amount of this order has not been disclosed. The price of an Aster 30 missile is estimated at 2 million euros, according to a report by the French Institute of International Relations. The Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles equip the frigates of the two countries as well as British ships. The Aster 30s are also the missiles fired by the SAMP/T Mamba anti-aircraft batteries which equip France (8 systems) and Italy (5 systems). “This is one of the largest orders for this anti-aircraft missile, the only European system offering such operational capabilities,” he said. “This global order will require adaptations at the level of the entire industrial chain in order to meet the challenges of the war economy”.
The production time of a missile took in 2021 “three to four years”, recalled in the fall the deputy Mounir Belhamiti, in a budget report which listed the orders expected in 2023. These included in particular 100 Aster 30 missiles for equip the five future defense and intervention frigates (FDI) and 118 Aster 30 for Mamba anti-aircraft systems. With a range of over 100 kilometres, the Aster 30 missile is designed to reach its target, aircraft or cruise missile, at Mach 4.5 (5,500 km/h) up to an altitude of 20 kilometres.
No mention of Ukraine
No mention is made of a possible delivery of some of these missiles to Ukraine, while kyiv insists on the need for more delivery of weapons, in particular anti-aircraft defense. Paris and Rome “have been cooperating since the 1980s in the field of medium-range ground-to-air defense around the Aster”, recalls the press release. “This cooperation, unique in Europe for such capabilities” has been “extended to the United Kingdom in the naval sector” for the total production of more than 1,300 missiles from the 2000s. This new investment is part of the common desire the two countries “to modernize their medium-range land anti-aircraft defense systems (…) in order to cope with the evolution of the threat”, specifies the text.