The in-service Aster munitions MLU

By Luca Peruzzi

In parallel, and as part of the S&E programme, OCCAR is also managing the Aster 15/30 family munition Mid-Life Upgrade programme that will allow the British, French and Italian Navies, the French Air Force and the Italian Army to extend the operational availability of their Aster missiles stockpile. Due to the need of refurbishing some missile components, in particular the pyrotechnic elements (booster, cruise motor, warhead, etc.) of the in-service munitions, which life is progressively expiring, the three MoDs decided to jointly assign to OCCAR the related programme and the procurement of MLU kits.

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The French MoD awarded the contract (Amendment 5) for the munitions MLU in January 2020, followed by the Italian MoD and the UK MoD last June (Amendment 8 to the contract). While France and Italy will proceed with both Aster 15 and 30 munitions MLUs, the UK decided to carry on the activities only on Aster 30 munitions. According to Eurosam, the global refurbishing programme will cover the retrofit of about 1,000 Aster missiles, starting from 2023 for the following 13 years, for a total value of more than € 1.2 billion. Thanks to the cooperative approach, the programme agreed amongst the three nations took advantage of a common Aster MLU kit price negotiated by OCCAR-EA in 2019, providing significant financial benefits. As a key programme milestone, the qualification of the S&E (MLU) Aster 30 engine is planned to be achieved in 2022.

The MLU refurbishment will be performed at the industrial workshop at Selles-Saint-Denis for the French MoD, and directly at the governmental premises for the Italian and the UK MoDs, respectively at Aulla near La Spezia at the Italian MoD joint armed forces advanced ammunition centre (CIMA, Centro Interforze Munizionamento Avanzato), and at a dedicated facility at DE&S (Defence Equipment & Support) Defence Munitions Gosport (DMG) near Portsmouth. The activities performed in the Italian and United Kingdom facilities will be technically supported by MBDA and will see the opportunity to implement the latest environmental rules (EC REACH regulation) in the production process, while waste disposal will be managed in factories that have been built at the latest environmental standards, said Eurosam.

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