French Navy Frigate Chevalier Paul Fires Aster 30 Surface-to-air Missile Near Levant Island
French Navy Frigate Chevalier Paul Fires Aster 30 Surface-to-air Missile Near Levant Island

French Navy Frigate Chevalier Paul Fires Aster 30 Surface-to-air Missile Near Levant Island

The French Navy (Marine Nationale) frigate Horizon-class frigate Chevalier Paul successfully fired Aster 30 surface-to-air missile near Levant Island, South France on September 21, 2021. Horizon frigates such as the Chevalier Paul are the most powerful surface combatants that France has ever built. In service since the end of 2011, it bears the visual code D621. Its namesake is Jean-Paul de Saumeur, better known as Chevalier Paul, a French naval officer born in Marseille in 1598. The main mission of this type of ship is the escort and protection of a carrier strike group formed around an aircraft carrier, usually the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle or one of the aircraft carriers of the US Navy, or an amphibious operation carried out by amphibious helicopter carriers.

Aster missiles are the main weapon system of Chevalier Paul. The ship is equipped with 32 Aster 30 missiles and 16 Aster 15 missiles, housed in vertical silos of the Sylver A50 type, located on the foredeck. A main anti-air missile system (PAAMS), combined with an EMPAR multifunction radar operating in C-band and target tracking. The Aster 30 missiles of the air defense frigate are the second bulwark of protection of the carrier strike group, after the Rafale fighters, and provide 360° protection at a distance of 100 kilometers against aircraft and 30 kilometers against grazing and maneuvering anti-ship anti-ship missiles in service or in development. The French Navy has shown with the frigate Forbin its capacity to destroy a supersonic missile (3,000 km/h) maneuvering ( SS-N-22, AS-17, BrahMos ) and at an altitude of less than 5 meters above water by shooting down a GQM-163 Coyote.

French Navy Horizon-class frigate Chevalier Paul firing Aster 30 missile. (Photo by Marine Nationale)

The Aster missile series, primarily comprising the Aster 15 and Aster 30 are a family of Franco-Italian vertically launched surface-to-air missiles. The name “Aster” stands for “Aérospatiale Terminale” (French company Aérospatiale being the original lead contractor before becoming MBDA) and from the mythical Greek archer named Asterion (in Greek mythology), Asterion likewise receiving his name from the ancient Greek word aster (Greek: ?????), meaning “star”. Aster is manufactured by Eurosam, a European consortium consisting of MBDA France, MBDA Italy (combined 66%) and the Thales Group (33%). The missile is designed to intercept and destroy a wide range of air threats, such as supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles at very low altitude (sea-skimming) and fast flying, high performance aircraft or missiles.

Aster is primarily operated by France, Italy, and the United Kingdom as an export customer, and is an integrated component of the PAAMS air-defence missile system, known in the Royal Navy as Sea Viper. As the principal weapon of the PAAMS system, Aster equips the Horizon-class frigates and the British Type 45 destroyers. Aster also equips the French and Italian FREMM multipurpose frigates, though are not using the PAAMS air-defense suite itself but through Franco-Italian specific declinations of this suite. There are currently two versions of the Aster missile family, the short-medium range version, Aster 15, and the long range version, Aster 30. The missile bodies are identical; their difference in range and intercept speed is because Aster 30 uses a much larger booster. Aster 15 has a length of 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in), rising to just under 5 m (16 ft 5 in) for Aster 30.

French Navy Horizon-class frigate Chevalier Paul firing Aster 30 missile.(Photo by Marine Nationale)