Shaping the Future of European Air Defence Eurosam Opens a New Chapter for Turkey

Mr. Eric DELEPOULLE: “Eurosam offers the ASTER 30 Block 1NT for joint development to support Turkey’s indigenous missile defence development program and strengthen the co-operation between our countries.”

Date: Issue 92 - July 2019

By Saffet UYANIK

The Eurosam Consortium, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, was established in June 1989 by three major European aerospace companies (Aerospatiale, Alenia, and Thomson-CSF) known today as MBDA Missile Systems and THALES for the development of the “Famille de missiles Sol-Air Futurs” (Future Surface-to-Air Family of missiles or FSAF). 

The company headquarters is in Paris, with another facility in Rome. Eurosam was initially a joint venture between Aérospatiale, Alenia, and Thomson-CSF. Aérospatiale is part of MBDA France, and the Missile and Missile Systems department of Alenia is now MBDA Italy. Thomson CSF is now Thales Group. Thus, Eurosam is owned by MBDA France and Italy (66%) and Thales Group (33%). Thales is a global electronics company serving the Aerospace, Defence, and Information Technology market worldwide with operations in more than 50 countries and has 68,000 employees; while MBDA missile systems is a world-leading missile systems company with 10,000 employees, an annual turnover of about € 2.5 Billion and over 90 customers across  the world. As Europe’s largest and most experienced defence contractors, these companies are both shareholders and subcontractors to Eurosam.

Eurosam was also one of the competitors in Turkey’s multi-billion-dollar anti-missile defence system T-LORAMIDS program in 2010. The Franko-Italian company competed in the tender with its SAMP/T ASTER 30 system against the US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC 3) and Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM-T); Russian Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300, and Chinese CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation), offering its FD-2000 (HQ-9) system. Although the Chinese company  CPMIEC was awarded the contract by the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) for 12 battalions of S HQ-9 in the export model called FD-2000 with an estimated value at about US$ 3.4 billion on September 26, 2013, Turkey then rescinded the contract on November 15, 2015 to develop its own national missile defence system with the use of its domestic resources.

Following the decision, Turkey launched its own project to build a similar system and awarded an 18-month contract to Eurosam, Aselsan and Roketsan for a study into the development and production of a long-range air and missile defence system. The study agreement was signed on January 05, 2018 during a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN and French President Emmanuel MACRON in Paris. The three-country feasibility study is expected to produce results in 24 months with potential joint production of an anti-ballistic missile defence system. Eurosam stated that the company offers the ASTER 30 Block 1NT as part of the joint development study which will assist Turkey’s indigenous air and missile defence system development program and strengthen the co-operation between the three countries.

With 30 years of experience in anti-air missile systems, the European manufacturer Eurosam participated in IDEF 2019 this year and displayed its latest and most advanced missile defence solutions. In a time when the air defence needs of Turkey became a hot topic, we visited Eurosam’s booth at the IDEF’ 19 and had the chance to have a conservation with Eurosam Communication Manager - Mr. Eric DELEPOULLE about the company’s current activities, capabilities of its products, and the ongoing joint Long-Range Air and Missile Defence Program contract which was signed between the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) and Eurosam last year. 

Stating that it is the 30th anniversary of Eurosam, Mr. DELEPOULLE said that “We are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. Eurosam was established as a Franco-Italian joint venture between Thales, MBDA France, and MBDA Italy (Aerospatiale, Alenia, and Thomson-CSF) in 1989 to produce a new missile family with cooperation at the national level. Eurosam is the prime contractor and the design authority for the development, production, and sales of naval and ground-launched air-defence missile systems. Our products are currently in service of the Italian Army, Italian Navy, French Navy, French Air Force, and the Royal Navy. Included in the contract, Eurosam also provides maintenance services for five years to ensure the systems remain operational in the medium term.” 

Forming the cornerstone of Europe’s naval and land-based air defence programs, the Development of ASTER missiles started in 1993 following a Memorandum of understanding signed between France and Italy for a family of future surface-to air-missiles. During the 1980s, the anti-air missiles in service of the French and Italian Armed Forces were short-range systems such as the French Crotale, Italian Aspide or American Sea Sparrow. In the early 90s, France and Italy decided to develop a domestic medium/long-range surface-to-air missile system with superior interception capability. The trials of the ASTER missiles were successfully completed in May 2001 and the system was deployed for the first time on the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle R91.

As a multi-national consortium, the development and initial production of Eurosam’s air-defence systems were funded by the French and Italian MoD on a 50/50 basis. Emphasizing the joint development aspect of the ASTER Missile Family, Mr. DELEPOULLE stressed the importance of cooperation between France and Italy regarding the highly connected manufacturing process of the system. “Eurosam works on the system level, after that we rely on Thales and MBDA for providing modules. For example, the launcher is manufactured by MBDA Italy, the radar is provided by Thales and the missile is produced by MBDA France. The manufacturing process is quite complex and highly interconnected. Each module uses both French and Italian subsystems. The ARABEL radar is produced by French Thales but the IFF system belongs to the Italian Leonardo. Another example is the launchers are manufactured by MBDA Italy, but they have also French made subcomponents. It is a true joint project. As the ASTER missile system belongs to both countries, you can witness situations where Italian and French companies compete against each other with the same missile in defence procurement projects. In addition, there is an agreement at the political level between France and Italy regarding the exports to the third countries. Both countries share the same vision of interests and universal values so if one country agrees to sell the system, the other one follows. It is a matter of cooperation and compromise.”

The ASTER missile family comprises ASTER 15 the short-medium range version and ASTER 30 the long-range version. There is an extensive commonality between the two variants with both missiles featuring the same missile body. ASTER 30 uses a much larger booster which increases its range and speed. ASTER Missile Family provide all-round anti-missile and anti-air protection and can intercept all types of air threats such as aircraft, UAVs, air-breathing targets, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and sea-skimming anti-ship missiles. ASTER 15 weights 310 kg and ASTER 30 weights 450 kg. ASTER 15 has a length of 4.2 meters while ASTER 30 has a length of 4.9 meters. Both missiles have a diameter of 180mm. The shot-range version, ASTER 15 has a maximum speed of Mach 3, a maximum range of 30 km and an interception altitude of 13 km. The long-range version, ASTER 30 can reach speeds of Mach 4.5 while reaching altitudes of 30 km with a maximum range of 120 km and can perform aerial maneuvers greater than 60 Gs giving it a very high degree of maneuverability. Highly maneuvering and agile ASTER missiles use a direct thrust vector control system called “PIF-PAF” which is intentionally located at the missile’s center of gravity to maximize responsiveness to prevent ruptures under high-g maneuvers during trajectory corrections. During the flyout toward the target, ASTER can perform 90-degree trajectory changes. Both the ASTER 15 and the ASTER 30 missiles can be vertically launched from the ship based Sylver A50/A70 and American Mark 41 Vertical Launching Systems (VLS).

ASTER missiles are currently in service on board the latest naval vessels of France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Equipped with an active RF seeker, the ASTER missile is autonomously guided and capable of simultaneously targeting and engaging multiple threats enabling it to counter saturated attacks. ASTER 15 and ASTER 30 missiles are integrated with the advanced Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS-officially designated as Sea Viper by the Royal Navy) utilizing different types of C2 systems and multi-function radars on the British Type-45 destroyers and the Franco-Italian Horizon (Orizzonte) Class destroyers and FREMM frigates as well as the Charles De Gaulle and Conte Di Cavour aircraft carriers.

Mr. DELEPOULLE pointed out that these systems were developed to meet the operational requirements of modern air defence on the battlefield. Emphasizing that these requirements called for naval and ground-launched missiles capable of defeating threats as diverse as high-speed tactical missiles and highly-maneuvering aircraft in saturation attack scenarios, Mr. DELEPOULLE said: “The naval version of ASTER missiles is currently used onboard French and Italian air defence frigates as well as French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and Italian aircraft carrier Cavour. SAMP/T, the ground-launched version of the system consists of three main modules. Each module has 8 missiles and a launcher that is connected to the main module with radio communication or fiber optic cables. We can connect 6 launchers to the system within a 10km radius to provide coverage for a wide area. The system is operated at the battalion level with C2 (Command-Control) structure through the data link or independently in autonomous mode. For target acquisition, the ASTER missiles are used in conjunction with the ARABEL radar which can detect Air-breathing Targets, Cruise Missiles, and TBMs up to 100km. The SAMP/T system can also be connected to the air defence network increasing its target detection range up to 600km. Each system consists of one C2 vehicle, one Radar, and 6 launchers. French and Italian Armed Forces operate one C2 vehicle, one radar, and four launchers per system. Because SAMP/T system uses only a single type of missile against all the threats, with 6 launchers up to 48 missiles can be fired against different targets to prevent massive air attacks.”

In order to reduce operational and logistic costs, Eurosam systems are designed as common and interoperable building blocks according to the customer-specific requirements. The main building blocks include two multi-function radars (X-Band Thales ARABEL and C-Band MBDA Missile Systems EMPAR radars) and two missiles (MBDA Missile systems ASTER 15 and ASTER 30). Both missiles share the same missile body, featuring the patented PIF-PAF dynamic control system. The only difference is the size of their booster stages with varying maximum ranges from 30 km to beyond 100 km.

Mr. DELEPOULLE: “ASTER 30, the Long-Range Version Can be Used on Both Naval and Land Platforms for Area Air Defence.”

Mr. DELEPOULLE emphasized the advantages of using one type of missile against various threats and shared information about the unique capabilities of the ASTER missiles in terms of logistics, training, and compatibility between different platforms. “There isn’t any difference between the naval and ground-launched versions of the ASTER missile. Both Italy and France use the same missile on their naval platforms and land platforms. It is a great capability in terms of logistics and operational cost. As you know the U.S. utilizes different missile systems such as Standard Missile (SM) and Patriot for naval and land platforms. With ASTER, you can use one missile for various type of missions against all kinds of targets. This commonality provides other benefits as well. For example, the French Air Force provides training to the French Navy because they use the same missile. The naval version of the system requires some minor adjustments to the missile to use onboard naval platforms. However, these are only software changes that don’t require physical modifications. Except for the trajectory software, it is the same missile. All versions of the ASTER family have the same missile body with two different boosters depending on the platform that the system deployed. ASTER 15, the short booster version is only used onboard the naval platforms for self-protection (point-defence) while the ASTER 30, the long-range version can be used on both naval and land platforms for area air defence.”

According to Eurosam’s statement, these sub-systems make up for systems that have outstanding effectiveness against saturating attacks inbound from all directions. Eurosam systems can operate either in stand-alone mode or interconnected with other weapon systems, thereby allowing their integration within a wider air defence network.

Underlining that network integration is one of the most important factors considering the performance of air defence systems, Mr. DELEPOULLE pointed out the highly accurate target acquisition technology of the system. “The given range of the ASTER 30 missile is beyond 100km. However, when we talk about the range of the missiles what really matters is actually the no escape zone of the target. The effective threat elimination range of the missile can vary depending on the type of the target and the detection distance. The point is, there are several factors that we must take into consideration when we talk about the range of the missiles. The radar, C2, and uplink capabilities of the user directly affect the performance of the system. The accuracy of the missiles is as important as the range of the missiles. The ASTER missile family has a special seeker with very high accuracy which provides the hit-to-kill capability. Although the missiles have directed fragmentation warhead, they can also use direct contact to eliminate hostile targets. the ASTER missile can use different methods to destroy threats, for example, it can neutralize TBMs or Cruise Missiles with its hit-to-kill capability or destroy hostile aircraft with proximity fragmentation. This allows the operators to use one type of missile against various targets. It absolutely provides a valuable capability considering the cost of each missile. During engagements, the system recommends different firing solutions based on the target and operational conditions. We normally recommend firing one missile per target. However, at the end of the day, it is up to the user to follow this recommendation or not. For example, the French Air Force prefers not to engage a single threat directly with two missiles.”

SAMP/T Systems Ready to Intercept! Its Readiness Level for the Battlefield Conditions is Only 25 Minutes

ASTER 30 has also been successfully incorporated into a land-based air-defence system, for the ground-based area defence mission requirements. The Eurosam SAMP/T (Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain - Sol-Air Moyenne Portée/Terrestre) system uses a network of sophisticated radars and sensors including an upgraded version of the long-range ARABEL 3D phased array radar with an improved performance developed under the ASTER 30 Block 1 upgrade program enabling it to be highly effective against all types of air threats. Thanks to its extended capabilities against higher speed and higher altitude targets, the system can intercept short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) within a 600 km range.

In June 2016, Italy deployed a SAMP/T system to Kahramanmaraş Turkey as part of a NATO mission following a Turkish request to NATO on June 6, 2016, to further bolster Turkey’s 900 km long border with Syria. The Italian Eurosam SAMP/T long-range air-defence unit was deployed to replace German Patriot batteries that were withdrawn in 2015. The SAMP/T batteries arrived at the Turkish port of Iskenderun on 5 June along with 25 Italian Army personnel. On July 4, 2019, the Italian parliament decided to extend the mandate of the Italian SAMP/T missile defence system deployed in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş until December 31, 2019.

Mr. DELEPOULLE also provided information about the operational capabilities of the Italian SAMP/T missile defence system currently deployed at Kahramanmaraş as part of a NATO mission to reinforce Turkey’s border against a possible Syrian missile threat. “Two SAMP/T systems with ASTER 30 Block 1NT missiles are currently deployed in Kahamanmaraş for nearly 3 years. The operational readiness of the SAMPT system in Kahramanmaraş is currently at 95% and it is also connected to the NATO air defence and TBM defence network. The C2 module and launchers of the SAMP/T system have integrated power units and has a significantly shorter deployment time compared to the other similar systems. Because the system does not use trailers, it is highly mobile and can be deployed under 25 minutes in battlefield conditions.”

As part of Turkey’s efforts to develop a national long-range air and missile defence system the heads of Eurosam, Aselsan and Roketsan have signed a Heads of Agreement (HoA) on July 14, 2017 in Ankara under the auspices of the Turkish Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) to launch in-depth co-operation in the field of air and missile defence. Following this agreement, the Turkish, Italian and French defence ministers signed a Letter of Intent on November 8, 2017, to further strengthen their relationship in defence matters. The signature of these agreements showed the will of Turkish, French and Italian governments to cooperate on air and missile defence systems and was considered to be a strong token of Eurosam’s dedication to using the SAMP/T as a solution for Turkey’s air and missile defence requirements.

As a continuation of this process, on January 05, 2018, the SSB awarded Eurosam, Aselsan, and Roketsan a contract for the definition study of the future Turkish Long-Range Air and Missile Defence System. The study will define the future operational requirements of the Turkish Air Force and study the possibility of co-operation for the production of a long-range missile system, which will be based on the Aster 30 Block 1 NT (New Technology) missile. This cooperation between Eurosam and the SSB will also provide technology transfer to Turkey and bring the opportunity of export to third countries. The studies are planned to be finalized at the end of 2019. The signing of the contract for the definition study attracted a great deal of attention considering the agreement with Russia for the procurement of the S-400 system, which sparked tensions with the U.S. Government. 

Regarding the ongoing process, Mr. DELEPOULLE informed us about the current situation of the joint-development program and Eurosam’s stance on the co-operation with Turkey. “Because these systems have strategic importance the procurement of these systems are negotiated at the highest level. The first agreement between the SSB, Aselsan, Roketsan, and Eurosam for the 18-month definition study phase was signed at Elysee Palace in January 2018. The aim of this study is to determine Turkey’s requirements for a long-range air and missile defence system. The contract was awarded by the SSB, which is responsible for the acquisitions as well as defining these requirements. As part of this process, Eurosam offers the ASTER 30 Block 1NT for co-production to meet the basic operational requirements of the Turkish Air Force. This joint development offer also aims to support Turkey’s indigenous air and missile defence system development program in addition to opening new export opportunities and longer-term co-operation between the three countries. France and Italy are keen on offering our NATO ally the best product we are producing. The ASTER 30 Block 1NT is derived from the B1 missile and has a new seeker operating in Ka-band. This change brings a significant performance increase. The new missile will also be capable of intercepting MRBM (Medium Range Ballistic Missiles) threats and eliminating missiles with separable warheads. However, as I have mentioned before the missile is one thing and the air defence system is another thing. For Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability you need a specific radar and C2 capabilities. That is the key point. Regarding the definition phase, we have been working closely with the SSB and the Turkish Air Force for 10 years. This definition study was a good opportunity to reinforce the relationship between Aselasn, Roketsan, and Eurosam because we are working as a team. We know our Turkish industrial counterparts and we know what to offer them. We are confident in what this co-operation will contribute, bringing our countries closer on a strategic level.”

Turkey is a crucial and a formidable NATO member located between Europe and the Middle East, bordering Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Safeguarding the southeastern flank of the alliance with a standout armed force, Turkish national security is under constant threat from the conflicts in the region. For decades, as part of NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence (NIAMD), Tukey relied on NATO partners to protect its territory especially against ballistic missiles. Currently, Spanish and Italian Patriot (PAC-2) and SAMP-T systems are deployed at Turkey’s southwest border to defend Turkey from ballistic missile threats from Syria. However, these systems do not cover all of the 900 km long border with Syria. As a result, under constant threat from the adversary neighbors, Turkey has made considerable efforts to acquire foreign air and missile defence systems while also researching and developing indigenous defence systems. With the beginning of the Syrian civil war and the cancellation of the Turkish Air Force Long Range Air and Missile Defence System (T-LORAMIDS) program, Turkey reprioritized the procurement of a long-range missile defence systems and decided to buy Russian S-400 systems which raised concern among other NATO member countries. Apart from the Russian S-400 deal, Turkey continued to work on a domestic missile defence program. A short time after the S-400 purchase, Turkey signed an agreement with Eurosam for a study about the possible joint development of a missile defence system. The feasibility agreement with Eurosam will not only contribute to the development of the domestic defence industry but also provide new opportunities for Turkey to market a product with high added value to the world. Carrying out studies on high altitude air defence systems for a long time, Turkey aims to develop indigenous air defence systems against aerial threats in the medium to long term with joint R&D studies. Thanks to this strategic step to improve the national defence industry, Turkey will also increase its contribution to the Alliance by investing in a system that will enhance NATO interoperability and strengthen the airspace of allied member states. If finalized, the Eurosam agreement will reinforce Turkey’s position in the alliance by showing that Turkey is still committed to the security of its allies even while prioritizing its national security