France carried out the first ballistic missile intercept with the SAMP/T Surface-to-Air Medium Range missile system last month; however, the news release about the test was delayed by one month. Considered an important milestone in the development of European missile defense capability, the test was conducted on 18 October 2010 at the DGA Missile Launch Test Centre (CELM) in Biscarosse in southwest France.
According to the DGA, the target used for the firing was representative of a medium-range ballistic missile. This firing deployed the Aster 30 Block 1 missile variant developed for the French Air Force’s ‘Mamba’ medium range air defense system and optimized for the interception of aerial as well as ballistic threats.) SAMP-T is the first European missile system offering missile defense capability. It is one of several systems considered by the NATO Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program.
Aster 30 anti-ballistic-missile Photo: DGA / CELM
The Aster program is the most ambitious European missile program ever launched and the second largest defense program managed by OCCAR after the A400M tactical transport aircraft. Aster missiles are currently deployed with three European navies (rance, U.K. and Italy all operating the Aster 30) and two international navies – Saudi-Arabia and Singapore, operating the Aster 15. SAMP/T was declared operational in September 2010 with in French Luxeuil Air Defence Artillery squadron. Turkey is also interested in the SAMP/T capability.
The Aster missile family includes the naval variants Aster 15 and Aster 30 and land-based SAMP/T. The enhancement of the Aster 30 Surface-to-Air Medium Range missile system to ballistic missile interceptor spanned over six years beginning 2003.
The SAMP/T system combines the Thales Arabel radar, a real-time engagement module and the Aster 30 missile developed and produced by MBDA. The French Air Forces’ Future Surface-to-Air Family (FSAF) acquisition program (also known as Mamba) DGA is acquiring 15 SAMP/T systems from the EUROSAM consortium. The Italian Army will also receive 10 SAMP/T systems.
According to the manufacturers, during the test the systems successfully performed all the intercept phases, from target detection and designation and handoff to the fire control module, target acquisition by the ARABEL radar, computation of engagement sequence and firing decision. The target was intercepted at the intended range.
(SAMP/T is the acronym for Surface Air Moyenne Portee Terrestre)