On Tuesday, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Italian counterpart, Roberta Pinotti, signed a co-operation agreement that will see Italy join the development programme for the MBDA Aster 30 Block 1 NT surface-to-air missile.
The upgrade programme was launched by France in December, and also includes the modernisation of the land-based SAMP/T system that serves with the French air force and Italian army, which uses the Block 1 missile.
France and Italy initiated the original Aster programme in 1988; to date, 1,600 missiles have been ordered by 11 customers. The system plays an active role in the NATO active layered theatre ballistic missile defence network, and has been used in support of NATO and coalition operations. Italian SAMP/T missiles are currently deployed to Turkey to protect against potential ballistic missile attacks from Syrian territory.
The new upgrade programme significantly modernises the electronics of the Aster 30 Block 1, taking into account the increased threat of ballistic missile attacks, and adapts the ground systems of the SAMP/T.
As declared at the Anglo- French summit held in Amiens in March, the UK has signalled an interest in upgrading to the new missile for its Type 45 destroyers, which already use the Aster 15 and 30.