The Wily Coyote

The Marine Nationale (French Navy) has demonstrated the ability of its MBDA Aster-30 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) equipping its ‘Horizon’ class air defence destroyers to hit sea-skimming anti-ship missiles (AShMs).

During the live fire demonstration, a US-supplied Orbital Sciences GQM-163A Coyote Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target was intercepted by an Aster-30 missile launched from the navy’s Forbin ‘Horizon’ class destroyer.

The demonstration of the Aster-30’s capabilities against the GQM-163A serves as an important  indication of the missiles capabilities against sea-skimming AShMs which, as the Royal Navy’s experienced in the Falklands War of 1982 illustrated, can be lethal to surface combatants.

Although the GQM-163A can ascend to altitudes of 50,000 feet (15,120m), it is also capable of achieving supersonic speeds and of flying sea-hugging profiles of 16ft (4m) altitude. In particular, the GQM-163A is designed to simulate the behaviour of Russian-designed AShMs such as the 3M54 Klub (NATO reporting name ‘SS-N-27 Sizzler’), which has a minimum flight altitude of around 49ft (15m) and a top speed of Mach 2.9; the P270 Moskit (NATO reporting name ‘SS-N-22 Sunburn’) with a Mach-3 top speed and a 66ft (20m) cruising altitude, and the P700 Granit (NATO reporting name ‘SS-N-19 Shipwreck’) which can hit speeds of Mach 2.5.

The Aster-30’s demonstration of its anti-AShM credentials is an important enhancement of the missiles’ capabilities, which also include the engagement of air-breathing threats, and ballistic missiles. This could serve to make the ‘Horizon’ class attractive to customers seeking a surface combatant able to engage a wide array of threats.

Published by Thomas Withington

Thomas Withington is a writer and analyst specialising in electronic warfare, radar and military communications.

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