Around 1,500 MBDA Aster medium-range air defense missiles have now been delivered to nine nations, equipping 55 air defence systems. Now the company (Chalet 173) is working with its partner in the Eurosam consortium, Thales, to develop a new version that gives expanded capabilities, with an accent on ballistic missile defense. Development is scheduled to be complete by 2023, with production beginning the year after.
Known as Aster 30 Block 1NT, the new version employs the same body and booster as the current Aster 30, but features a new Ka-band active seeker in place of a Ku-band unit. The seeker produces a narrower beam giving longer range and much better angular resolution. In turn this allows the missile to engage a target earlier in its trajectory, an important consideration in the case of multi-warhead missiles, and also to accomplish more refined course corrections during the fly-out. The missile uses the “Pif-Paf” control concept that combines aerodynamic and thrust controls.
Eurosam received an initial contract from France to begin Block 1NT development in December 2015, and a year later, Italy formally joined the program. The armies of both nations operate the current Aster 30 with the SAMP/T system, which will require some modifications to fire the Block 1NT.
As well as its land-based capabilities, the Aster can also provide air defense at sea. The Aster 30-based PAAMS system is on French and Italian frigates, and on the UK’s Type 45 destroyers, where it is known as Sea Viper. Italy has specified the Block 1NT for five new PPA-class frigates, while the Royal Navy is considering upgrading its Sea Viper systems to fire the new missile to provide an anti-ship ballistic missile defense.