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Aster Missile Fired From French Carrier (Nov. 8)

The first firing of an Aster 15 Naval anti-missile missile by a combat vessel was successfully carried out on 30th October 2002. The missile was fired from the French aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, off the L'île du Levant, near Toulon, France.

At 15.23 hrs, the Aster 15 missile was fired from one of the Sylver vertical launch modules located on the front right-hand side of the aircraft carrier at a target simulating an attacking anti-ship missile. Interception by direct frontal hit was effected at a distance of 6.1 kilometres from the aircraft carrier and after 8.8 seconds of flight, resulting in the total destruction of the target.

The statistical success rate of direct hits achieved by the Aster missile to date now exceeds 80%, due largely to its extremely efficient terminal self-guidance function.

The success of this first firing, conducted by the French Navy, confirms that Aster is now fully operational for the self-defence of the fleet's most strategic asset. The firing employed the complete SAAM (Surface-to-Air Anti-Missile) system. The French variant of the international SAAM system comprises vertical launch modules from the French shipbuilder DCN, each housing eight MBDA Aster 15 Naval missiles, and a fire control unit incorporating a multifunction Arabel radar from the French defence company, Thales.

The SAAM system has been designed to enhance the self-defence of surface vessels by extending their "point defence" capability (Point Defence Missile System, PDMS) to include an additional capability, namely "self-defence extended to local defence". Vertical launch, combined with an extended range of 30km, provides a highly effective, omnidirectional defence against a wide range of threats, including all types of aircraft and missiles, particularly the new generation of anti-ship and anti-radar missiles. Aster SAAM is also the only missile system in the world which is capable of extending self-defence to the protection of neighbouring ships within a few kilometers of the launch ship against anti-ship, sea-skimming missiles.

Qualification trials of the French SAAM system were completed in October 2001 following two firings from the French experimental vessel, Ile d'Oléron, which resulted in two direct hits against a sea-skimming anti-ship missile in an engagement scenario where the shortest range was 1.7 km.

Production orders totalling around 200 Aster 15 Naval missiles have been placed for the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Italian Navy's Andrea Doria aircraft carrier plus the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy's three F3000S frigates. The first operational Aster 15 missiles were delivered to the French Navy by MBDA in December 2001. First qualification trials of the Italian Aster 15 SAAM system took place in January 2002.

The Aster 15 Naval missile forms part of the European co-operative programme for a family of anti-missile missiles. The firing of the Aster 15 marks an important milestone for the Anglo-French-Italian PAAMS (Principal Anti-Air Missile System) anti-air missile system which will equip the French Horizon class frigates, the Orizzonte class frigates and the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers. PAAMS is an advanced naval defence system employing both Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles for local ship defence, area defence and battlegroup protection.

MBDA is the first fully integrated, pan-European defence company with a single, unified management and operating structure. The company is the second largest missile system prime contractor in the world with the broadest NATO industrial base, employing 10,000 people across 12 sites in Europe and the USA.

MBDA has a turnover of _ 2 billion and a forward order book of _ 13 billion. It is jointly owned by BAE Systems (37.5%), EADS (37.5%) and Finmeccanica (25%).

First Firing of the Aster Missile Carried Out Successfully from the Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle