Sea Viper (ASTER)

The ASTER/Sea Viper missile family, ASTER 15 and ASTER 30, is an advanced anti-air missile used by the Royal Navy, France and Germany.

The Sea Viper missile, or ASTER, is described by MBDA as;

The Aster missile family comprises Aster 15 for short to medium range and Aster 30 for short to long range. There is extensive commonality between the two variants with both missiles featuring the same terminal dart. Aster’s terminal dart is a lightweight, highly manoeuvring and agile missile equipped with a high-performance active RF seeker. Thanks to the unique combination of aerodynamic control and direct thrust vector control called “PIF-PAF”, the missile is capable of high manoeuvres. Together, these features give Aster an unmatched hit-to-kill capability.

ASTER is part of the Sea Viper system, a system previously called the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS).

ASTER Sea Viper

It is currently in service with the UK in the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers.

Sea Viper (ASTER) History

Like ASRAAM, the Sea Viper missile system has a long, tortuous and complex back story, essentially, it is a replacement for Sea Dart and the Type 42 Destroyer following a recognition of changing threat environments and the need for improved capabilities, reinforced by the Falklands Conflict in 1982.

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Sea Dart Type 42

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The NATO Frigate Replacement for 90’s (NFR-90), a multi-national programme that included France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the United States and Canada. NFR-90 had the perfectly laudable objective of creating a common ship design that could drive standardisation across the alliance partners, reduce costs and collectively, increase combat strength. The mission need document was created in 1979 and the outline staff requirement the year after. Pre-feasibility studies ran until 1982. The project team recognised that the ships would be built locally and that nation would choose different systems such as anti-ship missiles but by standardising on the basic design and major components, up t0 25% savings could be realised.

The project progressed through a number of milestones until the final study concluded in 1985 with a series of different design variants.

The Baseline (or Atlantic) design was to be a ship of 3,500 tonnes displacement constructed using modular techniques to accommodate different national requirements built in a quantity of 59, the UK planned to take 12.


In parallel with NFR-90, the various partner nations were also involved in one way or another with the anti-aircraft missile issue.

The USA came forward with a proposal for the-the NATO Anti-Air Warfare System (NAAWS) in 1987, initially called the Naval Defence Initiative. This proposed a multinational development to include five of the NFR-90 nations; the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, UK and the USA.

The remaining two NFR-90 nations, France and Italy, were having none of this and instead, proposed the Family of Air Missiles (FAMS). FAMS was a derivative of the already in development Aerospatial ASTER missile and Thompson-CSF Arabel phased array radar that was intended to protect the new French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. France and Italy signed a Letter of Intent in 1987 that agreed to develop the Aster missile system, Aster 15 for the Navy and Aster 30 for the Army.

The UK decided to keep its feet in both camps, the FAMS camp by now including Spain, as well as the UK (BAE and Marconi Defence Systems), Italy and France. UK participation in NAAWS included BAE and Ferranti.

In parallel to NAAWS and FAMS were two studies looking at ground-based air defence, the Medium Surface to Air Missile (MSAM). In October 1987, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the UK began a one year MSAM study. Independently of the UK’s involvement in MSAM, the government let a 15-month study contract to BAE to investigate options to replace Bloodhound, the UK’s MSAM.

Options were being left open!

In 1988, despite this source of potential conflict, the UK joined the NFR-90 project definition stage but Germany had already decided to build the Type 123 Brandenburg class in 1987, thus reducing their NFR-90 requirement. By 1989, with interest waning and costs increasing, the UK, France and Italy, withdrew. A year later, Spain also withdrew.

And that was the end of NFR-90.

An exchange in the House of Commons in January 1990 confirmed the cost of the UK’s participation in NFR-90;

Mr. Lofthouse: What was the Government’s initial expenditure on NATO frigate replacement, and why did they withdraw from the project? Does he think that, whatever the costs were, it was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money? Bearing that in mind, does he have plans to ensure that initial expenditure on future projects is kept to a minimum?

Mr. Neubert: There has been no waste of taxpayers’ money. Our participation in the NFR90 project cost £4.5 million, and the value of that work will be reflected in the work that we do on the type 42 successor, which we plan to have in service at the turn of the century or thereabouts.

Back to air defence missiles.

In 1989, the UK was left with a choice.


It chose FAMS.

It was reported that NAAWS was the most capable but more expensive and that a proposed bid for Ferranti by a merged BAE/Thomson would be contingent on the UK selecting FAMS.

The UK variant of FAMS would be called the Local Area Missile System (LAMS).

So, the LAMS variant of FAMS would meet the Royal Navy’s Support Defence Missile System (SDMS) requirement.

Are you keeping up?

SDMS was by then intended to equip a new AAW Frigate (not a destroyer) to replace Type 42/Sea Dart, called Future Frigate.

The decision to select FAMS for the Royal Navy was formerly announced in December 1990.

In 1990, France and Italy formerly entered into a joint development and manufacture contract for the Aster system after signing contracts with the EuroSAM consortium. EuroSAM comprised Thomson-CSF and Selenia and was to start the SSAF programme that would develop the short range Aster 15 and medium range booster equipped Aster 30, together with radar, fore control and launching systems (land and naval). France would use the Arabel radar and Italy, EMPAR. The two systems would be called Sol-Air Moyenne Portee Terrain (SAMP/T), with Aster 15, and Sol-Air Moyenne Portee Naval (SAMP/N) with Aster 30.

At this point, FAMS contained four missiles, with different ranges and configurations;

  • SAAM – Surface Anti-Air Missile (SAAM) with a range of 8km plus range
  • SAMP/N – Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM), 25km plus range
  • SAMP/T – Land launched Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MSAM), 40km plus range
  • LAMS – UK version, Local Area Missile System, 10km plus range

Project Horizon, or the Common New Generation Frigate, was initiated after the NATO Frigate of the 90’s collapsed. The UK, Italy and France signed the Tri-Partite agreement in early 1992 with the intention of creating a common air defence ship that would meet the needs of all three participants. The simple intention was to achieve some economy of scale by using common systems and enhance European defence credentials.

Horizon common New-Generation Frigate

The common systems would be the Aster missile, a vertical launch silo, a central combat management systems and multi-function radar, collectively called the Principal Anti-Air Modular System (PAAMS).

Under PAAMS, LAMS and SAMP/N were merged.

PAAMS would be delivered by EUROPAAMS, a joint venture established by EUROSAM comprising Thomson-CSF, Aerospatiale Matra, Alenia Marconi Systems and UKAMS, a subsidiary of Matra BAe Dynamics. Differing requirements and tensions arising soon emerged but many of these were resolved by the selection of two Multi-Function Radars (MFR), the BAE SAMPSON for the UK and Franco-Italian EMPAR. The UK always wanted a path to ballistic missile defence for PAAMS and thought EMPAR did not have sufficient growth potential to meet this future requirement.

The SAMPSON radar system was derived from a technology demonstration programme called Multi-Function Electronically Scanned Adaptive Radar (MESAR) developed by the Defence Research Establishment and Siemens Plessey. (read more about MESA 1 and 2 here)

The first firing of ASTER 30 took place in December 1994.

By 1996 good progress was being made with PAAMS but the ship design itself continued to be problematical, in service slippage and cost increases seemed to plague the project on a regular basis, with the UK’s Type 42’s becoming increasingly obsolete, this was a serious concern to the MoD. The UK’s workshare was much lower than its intended purchases suggested, another concern.

On top of this, the inability of the partners to agree on a prime contractor structure meant withdrawal was inevitable.

By early April 1998, another five successful tests had been conducted. The lack of a suitable supersonic target meant that no tests were able to be completed against a representative of the Raduga 3M-80 (SS-N-22 Sunburn) missile but simulations provided some assurance that the system could deal with such supersonic targets. Early concepts were also being developed for a two-stage booster to extend the anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the Aster missile. The MoD had awarded a study contract to BAE for Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (TBMD) in 1996.

On April 26th, 1999, the UK withdrew from Project Horizon, confirming many months of speculation. Instead of the tri-nation collaboration the UK would go it alone with the Type 45 Destroyer.

The UK withdrew from the platform component but continued with PAAMS.

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Commenting on the decision, the Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson, said;

International procurement must follow the same logic as national procurement, defence can only afford projects which are delivered cost-effectively and on time.

A memo to the select committee from British Aerospace Defence Systems in July 1999 described their view of the issues;

The Company is broadly in agreement with the points made by Sir Robert Walmsley in his evidence on CNGF and would like to make some additional comments covering the specification, the need for software and systems integration facilities, the requirement for the alignment of national procurement processes, workshare and difficulties caused by conflicting national interests.


The Horizon Technical Statement of Requirement (TSR) was effectively a “super-set” of all the individual national requirements. This inevitably led to an overly-complex solution and associated high development cost. An example of this is the Command Support System (CSS). For France and the UK, a perfectly adequate solution would have been to take the existing national systems (AIDCOMER and GCSS respectively) and fit them as Government Furnished Equipment. However, there was no indigenous Italian solution and they therefore wished to use the Horizon programme as an opportunity to develop a capability which would have given them joint ownership of a new system while paying only one third of the development cost.


The original plan was for the Combat Management System (CMS) software integration to be carried out in Italy and for Combat System Integration to be carried out in France. The UK, under such a scenario would have been unable to maintain a facility for integration of the UK national variant of the combat system and would therefore have been dependent in the future upon French industry to provide the means of evaluating systems upgrades and changes in configuration throughout the life of the ships. Such a strategy may not have been in the long term interests of the UK and the soundness or otherwise of this approach would benefit from further examination in future collaborative programmes.


Although currently undergoing some change, both French and Italian Government defence procurement methodologies were closer to the pre-Levene era of UK procurement rather than current UK practices either pre or post the introduction of the Smart Procurement Initiative. As a result, the attempt to run a competition on the basis of a level playing field was probably unrealistic. The French and Italian industrial organisations involved in Horizon had different approaches to competition and were not faced with a “winner takes all” situation in an environment where a national workshare deal was inevitable. The enforcement of a best value for money UK-style equipment selection decision was always going to be difficult in such a situation.


Where political, economic or industrial factors dictate a pre-agreed workshare between members of a consortium, there is inevitably a potential for increased risk. This results from the ownership of a particular element for the overall scope of supply by a single member, regardless of whether that member has the best capability to deliver the eventual solution.


In the Horizon procurement, the position of the Direction des Constructionnes Navales—part of the French Ministry of Defence, meant that it was overall customer (working with the Delegation General pour L’Armament), a shareholder in the prime contractor organisation (the International Joint Venture Company) and a subcontractor bidding for equipment supply with its HEPICS system in the combat management area. This, combined with the French Government’s support for its national champion impacted significantly on the prospects for a level playing field competition.

In conclusion, a clear lesson from Horizon is that for collaborative programmes to succeed, there is need not only for harmonisation of requirements, programmes and budgets, but for the reconciliation of national procurement policies, industrial organisations and cultural issues. The United Kingdom based its approach on well proven procurement practices, aimed at ensuring value for money, while the other partners had additional agendas relating to the support of national champions or the acquisition of a national technology capability paid for in part by the other partners in the project.

There were also crossover concerns, the UK’s involvement in the MRAV programme was also causing problems in the same time period.

Tests and development continued on PAAMS with a series of successful intercepts, including against supersonic targets and those involving scenarios such as friendly aircraft being pursued by enemy aircraft and complex EM environments.

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EUROSAM received a €3 billion contract in 2003 for the production of 18 SAMP/T ground-based systems (12 for France and 6 for Italy) and 1,400 ASTER 15 and 30 missiles for the UK, France and Italy.

A 2003 National Audit Office Report on Type 45 provided some details on the UK’s involvement with Horizon. The original approved cost for twelve vessels was circa £6 Billion, as history showed, we still paid circa £6 Billion, but got 6 vessels instead of 12.

In 2004 the UK joined the Maritime Theatre Missile Defence Forum (MTMD) consisting of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.

In 2009, two test firings of an Aster missile from the Longbow trials barge failed at very high G manoeuvres. This set the deployment programme back whilst the issues were resolved.

Longbow Trials Barge

The PAAMS systems were renamed Sea Viper in January 2009.

From MBDA;

Over the last month, firings have been carried out from the Italian Orizzonte frigate “Andrea Doria”, the French Horizon frigate “Forbin” and the UK trials barge “Longbow” at two different ranges in the Mediterranean. The trials were conducted over a range of scenarios of steadily increasing complexity, culminating in a final trial featuring a salvo firing against a sea skimming target performing a high-g terminal manoeuvre. All the trials were fully successful with both the PAAMS ship equipment and Aster missiles operating as expected in each case. This draws to a close the complex and high intensity investigation launched within MBDA after problems encountered in two firing trials last year.

It was reported that the failures were due to a manufacturing process change precipitating an unexpected failure mode.

In 2010, HMS Dauntless became the first Royal Navy vessel to fire an Aster missile

Captain Richard Powell, Commanding Officer of HMS Dauntless, said:

This firing is the culmination of a series of trials of Sea Viper as the ship moves towards acceptance into the Royal Navy. Both my ship’s company and the equipment manufacturers have done a sterling job in preparing for and conducting the test. We are delighted with the success of this firing which is particularly important for the UK as the Sea Viper system will also work in support of land and air forces.

Richard Smart, Head of Team Complex Weapons at the MOD, said:

Sea Viper is one of the most advanced weapons systems in the world. Its ability to engage multiple targets gives the Royal Navy unparalleled protection from air attack which, together with the ship’s speed and agility, makes the Type 45 a truly formidable fighting force. The first firing from HMS Dauntless is a fantastic achievement that has successfully built on the weapon system’s extensive qualification programme.

At Naval Command Headquarters, news of the successful first firing at sea from a Royal Navy warship was received warmly by the Chief of Staff (Capability), Major General Garry Robison. He said:

This is an essential milestone in the development of Type 45 capability and is the culmination of much successful co-operation between MOD and industry.

2011 also saw the first ASTER test firing against a theatre ballistic missile (TBM) target, an Israeli Black Sparrow, fired from an F-15. The Black Sparrow is designed to simulate a SCUD-B ballistic missile.

By 2012, other Tye 45’s had conducted their test firings and MBDA had produced their thousandth ASTER missile. A successful test had also been conducted against a supersonic sea skimming target, the ATK GQM-163A Coyote, flying at 5m and Mach 2.5.

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Coyote Target 1

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Coyote Target 2

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Coyote Target 3

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The Longbow trials barge was recycled in Turkey in 2012.

In 2013, HMS Daring demonstrated the ability of Sea Viper to detect and track two medium-range ballistic missile targets at the US Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands. This was the culmination of a research stream that had started around 2000 and the MESAR research programme., leading into the £10 million Type 45 Science and Technology Programme (TSAT)

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review stated;

We will continue to commit significant funds to the NATO Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) network, as well as supporting research and development initiatives and multinational engagement through the UK’s Missile Defence Centre. We will also investigate further the potential of the Type 45 Destroyers to operate in a BMD role.

The At Sea Demonstration 2015 (ASD15) was a multinational exercise in which members of the Maritime Theatre Missile Defence (MTMD) Forum conducted a number of operationally realistic tests of maritime ballistic missile defence.

ASD15 was a serious and impressive demonstration of capability and clearly set the roadmap for further development of the Sea Viper as a ballistic missile defence system working in conjunction with allies, funding permitting.

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In early 2016, the French DGA launched an upgrade programme that included the Block 1 NT (New Technology) missile.

The French Ministry of Defence has launched the Aster Block 1 NT (New Technology) program aimed at modernizing the surface-to-air missile platform/terrain (SAMP/T) ground-based air defence system as well as its associated Aster missile. The French Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) announced the contract to the EUROSAM consortium, which includes MBDA and Thales, on December 23, 2015.

This contract provides for the development of a new version of the Aster 30 Block 1 missile, referred to as Aster B1 NT, with first deliveries to the French Air Force expected in 2023. It also covers the modernization of the current SAMP/T system to provide enhanced capabilities, particularly against ballistic missiles. This evolution will enable SAMP/T to further enhance its contribution towards NATO’s anti-ballistic missile defence programme.

France’s Aster programme is led by the DGA, with the support of OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement), the European intergovernmental organization for joint armament cooperation.

Italy is expected to join France in the Aster B1 NT program in the next few months. Italy’s ground-based air defence units are similarly equipped with the SAMP/T system.

For quite some time, the UK, Italy and France have cooperated on ground and naval air defence systems based on the Aster missile. This cooperation was reaffirmed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the three nations on December 11, 2015.

This upgrade, which includes a new Ka band seeker frpm Thales and various software improvements, will allow the Aster missile to engage short-range ballistic missiles (1,000km range) and some flight segments of medium-range ballistic missiles. First deliveries are planned to commence in 2023.

The agreement was formally signed between France and Italy at Eurosatory, on the 15th of June 2016.

Today marks a very important date for European defence cooperation and for MBDA in particular. 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. Aster represents the leading edge of worldwide military capability and as such serves to consolidate the European missile industry

The UK is considering Block 1NT for Type 45.

Sea Viper (ASTER) Capabilities

The Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) is called Sea Viper in UK service and comprises a number of components. Technically, the UK has the PAAMS(S) with the S denoting Sampson, or Sea Viper, depending on what sources one reads.

  • SYLVER Vertical Launch System
  • ASTER Missiles
  • Long Range Search Radar
  • Fire Control System based on the SAMPSON Multi-Function Radar

SYLVER Vertical Launch System

SLYVER (SYstème de Lancement VERtical) is a comparable vertical launch system to the US Mk41, designed by DCNS. There are four variants, each of a different depth and configuration.

  • Sylver A35, for antimissiles and air-defence
  • Sylver A43, for self-defence missiles
  • Sylver A50, for tactical missiles
  • Sylver A70, for deep-strike missiles

Type 45 Destroyers use the A50 configuration, six of, for a total of 48 cells.

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The upper plate, missile hatches and the centre line pressure-controlled uptake hatch form a watertight, RATTAM (Response to ATTack on AMmunition) proof assembly

ASTER Missiles

There are two variants of the ASTER missile in service with the UK, ASTER 15 and ASTER 30 Block 0.

The ASTER 15 missile weighs 310kg and is 4.2m long, the ASTER 30 missile weighs 450kg and is 4.9m long. Both are of a two-stage design with a booster that falls away mid-flight and an identical main missile body. ASTER 30 has a larger booster than ASTER 15, reflective of their range and role.

ASTER 15 is generally reported to have a range and altitude of 1.7km to 40 plus km and 13km respectively, and a maximum speed of Mach 3.5.

ASTER 30 is generally reported to have a range and altitude of 3km to 120 plus km and 20km respectively, and a maximum speed of Mach 3.5.

The blast fragmentation warhead is initiated by a Thales dual contact/proximity fuze and guidance is provided by a combination of off-board direction and onboard active RF seeker. The missile is characterised by extreme manoeuvrability, up to 60g, derived direct thrust vector approach called PIF/PAF (Pilotage enforce/Pilotage aerodynamique fort, inertial steering by force/aerodynamic steering by force) and large control surfaces.

Within the ASTER 30 family, there are a number of sub-variants;

ASTER 30 Block 0; In service with the Royal Navy and others.

ASTER 30 Block 1; Part of the Italian/French SAMP/T land-based air defence system with dual capability against ballistic and conventional missiles. This version has updated seeker software not found in Block 0 and proven as part of previous SAMP/T development activities.

ASTER 30 Block 1NT (new Technology); Currently in development for France and Italy, utilising a new seeker and other improvements to provide enhanced capabilities against tactical ballistic missiles and some capabilities against medium-range ballistic missiles. ASTER 30 Block 1NT is fully compatible with existing SYLVER A50 VLS cells. It is anticipated to enter service with France in 2022.

ASTER 30 Block 2; yet to be developed but reportedly capable of addressing 3,000km range ballistic missiles

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ASTER Assembly

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The rocket motor is manufactured by Avio

Long Range Search Radar

The Type 1046 radar is a derivative of the Thales Netherlands SMART-L radar, also known as the S1850M. The role of the S1850M is to identify threats at long range and in large volumes, passing the data into the Sea Viper Combat Management System (CMS).

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BAE describe it as;

S1850M is a long range radar for wide area search. With fully automatic detection and track initiation, it can track up to 1,000 air targets at a range of around 400 kilometres. The S1850M provides 3-dimensional track/plot data of the tactical threat and own forces within the operational environment.

The S1850M will also be fitted to the QE Class aircraft carriers.

HMS Daring-1

The S1850M is the large black radar on the aft mast in the image above.

Fire Control System based on the SAMPSON Multi-Function Radar

SAMPSON is derived from the earlier Multi-Function Electronically Scanned Adaptive Radar (MESAR) programme and is an advanced multi-function S-Band radar providing both search, precision tracking and fire control, central to the PAAMS/Sea Viper System.  Designed to operate in a heavy clutter and ECM environment it is also designed to be highly robust and resilient. Each of the two arrays have two thousand radiation elements and the distinctive antenna housing rotates at 30rpm to provide high throughput 360 degree coverage.

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Type 45

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Type 45 console

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The radar is placed as high as possible to extend the distance to the horizon for detection of sea skimming missiles. The combat management system integrates the information from both SAMPSON and the S1850. Tests have shown the system capable of simultaneously tracking a high number of targets including aircraft, ballistic missiles and conventional missiles.

SAMPSON, together with the combat management system and other components make Sea Viper extremely effective. Although true performance rightly remains classified, anecdotally, it is said to be world beating.

The Road to Ballistic Missile Defence

The path to ballistic missile defence capability depends on what kind of ballistic missile we are talking about.

Although 2015 SDSR made a number of supportive statements on ballistic missile defence there is no specific requirement yet. That said, the Royal Navy has been involved in a number of research and collaborative programmes over the years, building up a solid body of experience on which to expand the already hugely impressive Sea Viper system into.

One of the recent emergent threats is the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), the Chinese DF-21 for example. The first phase of the roadmap to ballistic missile defence would be to address the anti-ship ballistic missile, a threat to deployed naval shipping.

The Block 1 ASTER 30 missile, currently in service with the land based SAMP/T system is capable of defeating short-range ballistic missiles. The difference between Block 1 and Block 0 missiles, the same Block 0 missiles in service with the Royal Navy, is a software upgrade. MBDA have stated that this Block 0 to Block 1 upgrade could be completed at the Munition Maintenance Facility at Gosport. The required software enhancements for the combat management system have already been demonstrated in 2013 as part of the Type 45 Science and Technology Demonstration (TSAT). MBDA completed a Project Definition and Risk Reduction study in 2015 for an Initial Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Defence Capability.

So it would seem that this first rung, enhancing the Type 45’s area air defence capability to include anti-ship ballistic missiles would be, and I use the word carefully, relatively straightforward and low risk.

The next step, against medium-range ballistic missiles, would require the UK to purchase the Block 1NT Aster 30 missile.

The step after that is the proposed Block 2 missile, and possibly, an A70 SLYVER VLS.

And no mention of supersonic cricket balls!


Table of Contents

RN TLAM 4 Introduction
MBDA Brimstone layout on Tornado Brimstone
MBDA SPEAR 3 Image 2 SPEAR Capability 3
RAF Tornado GR4's at RAF Akrotiri Cyprus being armed with the Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb. Paveway IV
Tornado Storm Shadow Storm Shadow
Royal Navy Submarine HMS Astute Fires a Tomahawk Cruise Missile (TLAM) During Testing Near the USA Tomahawk
FASGW(H) Missile Sea Venom
Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) Martlet (Lightweight Multirole Missile)
HMS Montrose fires Harpoon Harpoon
F-35 UK Weapons Trials November 2014 ASRAAM & PAVEWAY IV shot 2 ASRAAM
RAF Typhoon Aircraft Carrying Meteor Missiles Meteor BVRAAM
Soldier Mans Starstreak HVM High Velocity Missile System During Exercise Olympic Guardian for London 2012 Starstreak HVM
Sea Ceptor missile system FLAADS(M) Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM)
Sea Viper HMS Defender Type 45 Live Fire Sea Viper/ASTER
Fire Shadow Loitering Munition Fire Shadow Loitering Munition
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA. Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS)
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle Exactor (SPIKE NLOS)
Pictured are elements of the Manoeuvre Support Group MSG from 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks Plymouth, whilst conducting live firing of the new Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin. 42 Commando Royal Marines were the first UK Armed Force to live fire the new Javelin system. The live fire demonstration was an early opportunity to see the Javelin being live fired in the UK. The future reliance on simulation,rather than live firing will mean that a demonstration such as this will be a rare event in the UK during the service life of the system. This image was submitted as part of the Peregrine 06 Photographic Competition. This image is available for non-commercial, high resolution download at subject to terms and conditions. Search for image number 45145988.jpg ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photographer: PO (PHOT) Sean Clee Image 45145988.jpg from Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW)
NLAW Training Aid Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW)
Raytheon Defender Laser CIWS Lasers
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Peter Elliott
May 19, 2016 8:58 pm

What we don’t know of course is how Aster Block 2 would stack up against SM-6. The advantage of SM6 is that is already exists. Presumably it could even be integrated into a SYLVER 70 launcher (although not by the looks of it SYLVER 50). On current trends we would be likely to go for the European missile but the SM-6 could always be taken up as a UOR if Aster Block 2 isn’t ready.

May 20, 2016 3:17 am

Has Aster 30 been tested against IRBMs

The Other Chris
May 20, 2016 9:07 am

• Sylver A70, for deep-strike missiles and Moscow-antagonising ATBM/AICBM’s… ;)

May 21, 2016 5:31 am


I think it is DF-26 not DF-21 which is the threat.

May 21, 2016 8:18 am

HMA, it’s both. Both DF-21 and DF-26 are said to be anti-ship capable.

“How” anti-ship capable is open to question, after all, even a 81mm mortar is “anti-ship capable” if it lands right!

May 21, 2016 9:33 am

Ah which is better DF-21 or DF-26

May 21, 2016 8:37 pm

I tend to think the anti ship ballistic missile threat is overstated. Are Chinese ISR capabilities really that good they can locate a high value surface unit and keep it locked till the missile arrives? Recent searches for wreckage of downed airliners have shown how hard it is find and locate things in the vastness of the ocean and hose aren’t ships full of world beating ECM that are actively trying to hide from you. Hitting outlines in the gobi desert is one thing, hitting a ship moving at top speed, manoeuvring and using all available countermeasures is very different.

However, I tend to think the main problem with using a ballistic missile is more strategic. I really can’t see any confrontation with China not involving the US and it being a very high stakes fight. Would China really risk firing a ballistic missile at a US warship/carrier? US satellites would immediately detect the launch and how would the president be able to work out they weren’t nuclear armed and even heading for the mainland or somewhere else in the few minutes reaction time. Particularly when it’s likely the only real chance of success is a saturation attack, the pressure of it being an attempted decapitation attack while not unlikely would make it very hard for him/her to not immediately respond.

Hopefully SSNs, b2 and future b3 bombers and other assets will have dealt with every launcher offering any sort of threat long before it ever got to that point but I still don’t think throwing ballistic missiles en mass at US warships/bases is ever gonna be a smart or likely strategy in anything other than a WW3 scenario.

Perhaps some of the better informed posters will be able to tell me I’m totally wrong here but the whole concept seems a little over cooked to my limited knowledge.

May 23, 2016 3:06 am


As I understand it (may be wrong) DF-21/26 are not ballistic but have a cruise missile/semi ballistic flight path.

As to whether that may still be mistaken for a ICBM launch, the US supposedly knows the location of all weapons on earth using the NRO/Geo spatial stuff. So mistaking it for a ICBM would be unlikely. Even if it is, there’s lots of man-in the-loop before the NCA would fire back a larger ICBM/SLBM

El Sid
El Sid
May 23, 2016 11:05 am


You’re assuming that the US has operational satellites at this point in a war, also that they are able to talk to ground stations without interference….

May 25, 2016 8:18 am

Even if the DF-21/26 is ballistic, what chances are there that the US/West would mistake them for real ICBMs?

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 25, 2016 12:11 pm

HMAFR, I think that all the acknowledged nuclear powers have a no-first-use policy. That fundamental policy however leaves a lot of room for individual states’ nuclear rules of engagement.

The two extremes for launching a retaliatory strike while adhering to “no-first-use” would be, release on launch detection, release on impact.

For it to matter whether the US might mistake the launch of Chinese medium range ballistic missiles for a launch of nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles against the United States, the US would need to have nuclear ROE that called for a retaliatory strike upon launch detection.

It is very unlikely that the US would need to employ such extreme ROE. China is thousands of miles away from the USA, so the American deterrent system has time to reach a relatively assured conclusion that it is under attack, and can still release missiles before a preemptive Chinese nuclear strike could degrade America’s nuclear deterrent to any extent.

The rationale for nuclear ROE calling for release on launch detection would be the scenario where one party could quickly and substantially degrade another party’s ability to launch a counter strike. For example, India, being next-door to Pakistan and possessing sufficient nuclear weapons, could launch an effective first strike against Pakistan. Considering that the Indians have previously stated that they have the resilience to absorb a Pakistani first strike, retaliate, and still effectively ‘win’ a nuclear war, the Pakistanis might well have hair-trigger nuclear ROE to maintain some level of credible deterrent effect.

In the event of China using medium range DF-21 missiles against its near-neighbours, including US bases and facilities in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc, the US can afford a wait-and-see policy before going nuclear. Wait-and-see would not preclude the use of missile defence batteries in the region, and would not put the USA’s deterrent at risk.

A little while ago, the US explored the idea of using Minuteman missile stages, launched from its monitored nuclear ICBM fields, to launch conventional hypersonic weapons – part of the American Prompt Global Strike concept. This is the type of thing that could lead to miscalculation, particularly with North Korea in the sights. China would be aware of intercontinental weapons being used, and might theoretically launch a nuclear counter strike against a conventional US barrage on North Korea, in expectation of the US weapons being targeted on China.

Couple of other points. China has a lot of mobile ballistic missiles, including ICBMs, that cannot be as effectively monitored as Russian and American silos (the US and Soviet fixed sites were at least partly intended to ensure minimal ambiguity in regards to intent – confusion removed by the need for full release from known sites).

Also, China has dual-use nuclear/conventional weapons like DF-21, whereas previous US/Soviet treaties consider such medium-range ballistic missiles to be nuclear by default (which is why the limiting range for ATACMS is 300km). US and Russian launchers are additionally counted towards numerical limits on nuclear weapons if even a single launcher of that type is used to deploy nuclear warheads – there is no similar treaty restriction for the Chinese.

May 25, 2016 2:12 pm


I won’t treat the inability to dig up the remains of MH370 as an inability to detect a surface fleet, the problem with looking for MH370 is 2-fold. One, it’s underwater. Deep underwater. This means that surface surveillance systems are not going to be useful. Two, things underwater are usually detected by their activity, e.g propeller noise, reactor noise etc. A “dead” plane that has little to no activity is very, very hard to detect since it does not have the characteristics of what people look for.

Re the DF-21/26, I don’t think they’ll have a problem hitting. After all, they can always MIRV the warhead and simply hit the entire kilbox.


The DF-21 (Northwind-21) is the older version, the DF-26 is the newer one but as to which is “better”? I’d say strategy/tactics wise, both are about the same. Sure, the newer one might have more range but other than that, I don’t *think* there is much of a difference. Could be wrong though, don’t have a good look in the insides of Chinese Strategic Rocket Forces.

July 18, 2016 7:10 pm

A short video which presents the Franco-Italian Aster 30 in service with the French army.

July 5, 2017 1:14 pm

There has been lots of press on the T45s Aster 15/30 combination with PAAMS in that it is a World beating Area defence system that can track over 2000 targets etc. But can it cope with the new hypersonic missile threat? A threat example being the Zircon/Brahmos2 family, which on a good day can travel at Mach 6+ i.e. 1701.5 to 2041.7 metres per second.
The Sampson radar sits on a mast 40 m above sea level which will give it a range of 22.6 km (22600 m) to the horizon. The PAAMs will have (22600/1701 =) 13.29 seconds to deal with the problem if the Zircon is travelling at its lower speed. The radar has very good detection capabilities against stealthy targets, so should easily detect the incoming Zircon or swarm.
The Aster 15 has according to Wiki a speed of M3.5 (1191 m/s) and Aster 30 M4.5 (1531 m/s). Therefore in a tail chase scenario the 15/30s will not be able to intercept. However, the most likely scenario is that the ship will be operating as a picket ship and therefore the zircon will be approaching the frontal aspect. Can the missiles tracking algorithms cope with type of closure speed?
If the T45 is tasked with guarding a carrier then hopefully a Crowsnest equiped Merlin will have Network capability to either control or direct the PAAMs system so therefore should have a better reaction time.
However the problem comes when the ship is operating on its own, say transiting around the coast of Yemen. Could it cope – thoughts?

Rocket Banana
July 5, 2017 6:34 pm


Some thoughts…

If a missile like that flies 4m above the waves the radar range – multiply visible by sqrt(4/3) – is actually about 35km which gives us a little more time. Call it 17.5 seconds with a 2000m/s closing contact. SAMPSON will “see” the missile every second and the AESA will linger on the contact for around 60% of the time.

Aster30’s booster takes too long to burn out (3-4 seconds) and will put the missile too high to be of real value here, so we’d launch Aster15, which will fly an intercept course rather than directly to the incoming missile.

We’d obviously launch a few Aster15s (four) to make sure the threat is defeated :-)

For a single missile intercept the T45 can be up to 17km away from the asset it is protecting and still intercept a Mach6+ missile.

Either that or sink the launch vessel before it targets us :-)

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