On Wednesday 22 March 2023 the French Navy’s Lorraine multi-mission frigate enhanced with air defence capabilities (FREMM DA) successfully fired the Aster 30 air defence missile. This type of firing against targets representative of current threats trains crews to deal with the high intensity scenarios the Navy’s battleships are likely to encounter during operations. In this case, the task was to neutralise an air threat with a complex trajectory, in an escort scenario involving a valuable ship under threat of missile attack. This form of training against top of the spectrum threats helps consolidate the know-how required of a fighting Navy. Firing complex munitions forms part of the POLARIS spirit and reflects the Navy Chief of Staff’s (CEMM) commitment to making naval warfare the prime focus of all Navy activities.
Aster missiles, which come in two versions (Aster 15 with approximately 30 km range, and Aster 30 with approximately 100 km range), are carried by multi-mission frigates, air-defence frigates and the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. They will also be carried by the new defence and intervention frigates. The missiles have been specifically designed to destroy attacking aircraft and missiles. The many tactical and technical lessons learned from this firing will help develop the French Navy’s combat capabilities. Although the Aster 30 weapon system has already been validated for the FREMM DA (following the Aster 30 firing from the Alsace on 17 November 2021), this recent firing of complex munitions helps confirm the military capabilities of the Lorraine with a view to its entry into active service.
The reaction of the FREMM DA crew, who were unaware of the missile trajectory details, was extremely effective. This training highlights the realism demanded in French naval training since POLARIS. Firing of this type is impossible without support and expertise from the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA): DGA Maîtrise de l’information (preparation for firing) and DGA Essais de missiles – Ile du Levant launch site (target implementation and safety of the firing range). Launched on 13 November 2020 and accepted by the French State in Toulon on 16 November 2022, the FREMM DA Lorraine is the French Navy’s eighth and final FREMM and the second to have enhanced air defence capabilities. With its Caïman Marine helicopter, dipping sonar, latest-generation torpedoes and innovative advanced acoustic quieting. 142 metres in length and 20 metres in width, the Lorraine carries a crew of 123.
Lorraine (D657) is an Aquitaine-class frigate of the French Navy which were developed through the FREMM multipurpose frigate program. She is the second of two air-defence variants of the class known as FREMM DA (Frégate Européenne Multimissions de Défense Aérienne) in the program. Original plans were for 17 FREMM hulls to replace the nine D’Estienne d’Orves-class avisos and nine anti-submarine (ASW) frigates of the Tourville and Georges Leygues classes. In November 2005 France announced a contract of €3.5 billion for development and the first eight hulls, with options for nine more costing €2.95 billion split over two tranches (totaling 17). The ships also incorporate Sylver A50 vertical launch systems permitting them to carry both MBDA Aster 15 and/or 30 surface-to-air missiles. On the two AAW variants, the Sylver A70 launch systems (used for land-attack cruise missiles on the ASW variants) are removed to provide space for fitting double the number of A50 cells for Aster SAMs.