The first UK firing of an Aster missile, from the trials barge Longbow on 4 June 2008
History of PAAMS
The origins of PAAMS can be traced back to the signing of a tri-national Staff Requirement in December 1992 by the Italians, French and British, to commence work on a new warship for area air defence, the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF) - Horizon. This was to be armed with the Principle Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS), which in turn would utilise a new generation of medium-range naval and ground-launched air-defence missiles initially known as Famille de missiles Sol-Air Futurs (FSAF), or the Future Surface-to-Air Family of missile systems. France and Italy agreed in 1989 to develop the FSAF range of missile systems, and would share the costs on a 50-50 basis.
An immediate major obstacle to the Horizon project proceeding on schedule was the disagreement between the UK and its continental partners over the radar configuration for the frigate's Principle Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS). The UK wanted a MESAR variant, while the Italians and the French being happy with the EMPAR system. As a compromise, the three governments asked two consortia, Eurosam (Thomson-CSF/Aerospatiale/Alenia) and UKAMS (BAe Dynamics - GEC Marconi) to conduct studies to see if a single interface could be produced that could handle either type of radar. By the end of October 1994, the question of whether to adopt the EMPAR or MESAR/SAMPSON variant had been effectively left up to the UK Government as the defence industry had guaranteed that both EMPAR or SAMPSON could be integrated in to the PAAMS architecture.
The delays in signing the MoU for the PAAMS meant that the remainder of the Horizon programme was delayed. The UK effectively put a hold on further progress by refusing to sign the Supplement 1 to the Project Horizon MoU until the three partners had reached agreement over PAAMS in that they should find a cost-effective technical solution that also met national work share arrangements. The UK also had a desire to derive maximum long-term benefit from the radar for PAAMS and had reservations about the performance of EMPAR. Issues of work share, cost and competition complicated the final decisions over two major PAAMS subsystems - the Long-Range Radar (LRR) and vertical launch system (VLS).
Three MoUs were finally signed in March 1996. They covered the general rules governing the three partners' collaborative effort for overall development and production of the PAAMS programme (PAAMS MoU), the PAAMS Full Scale Engineering Development Initial Production Phase (PAAMS MoU Supplement 1) and a supplement to the Horizon programme covering the design definition phase (CNGF Programme MoU Supplement).
As the programme continued, problems continued to arise. There were disagreements in early 1997 over the type of vertical launch system to be employed. The French and Italians favoured the Franco-Italian Sylver A50 developed by DCN and Alenia, and licensed by BAe Dynamics. The UK however, had shifted to support the Mk 41, supplied by Lockheed-Martin, which would allow the installation of US SM-3 based theatre missile defence missiles. The UK had also been refusing to negotiate a full-scale engineering development and initial production contract for PAAMS on the terms that had been offered by industry to the PPO, and had resisted moves by France and Italy to relax the PAAMS performance specification set out in the original agreement. The divergence of performance goals coupled with different national contracting procedures had produced a schism in the programme, which had been made public by a leaked letter from the Chief of Defence Procurement (CDP), Sir Robert Walmsley. The letter was addressed to his French and Italian National Armament Director (NAD) counterparts, and outlined the UK's concerns - that the UK still wanted Column 2 performance, which was the Royal Navy's minimum acceptable performance criteria, meaning a local area capability against simultaneous threats. France and Italy had been ready to accept Column 1 performance, which was really only a replacement for the existing SM-1MR missile. Walmsley had also noted that industry had been unwilling to respond to the joint requests either in the form of an acceptable offer for PAAMS or more information.
Finally, in mid-1997, the NADs of France, Italy and the UK conditionally endorsed the industrial management framework for the collaborative development and production of PAAMS. PAAMS was designed to provide CNGF with area, local and point defence capability, based on Aster 15 and 30 surface-to-air missiles. The Aster 15 missile had just been successfully tested in a 'hit-to-kill' engagement with a live MM38 Exocet anti-ship missile, demonstrating that it could carry out the local-area defence mission, against a crossing target, as required by the Royal Navy.
By the summer of 1998, the PAAMS Programme Office had chosen the Sylver missile launcher (made by DCN) rather then the rival Mk 41 vertical launcher, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin. This was something of a blow to the Royal Navy as they had expressed interest in acquiring a theatre ballistic missile defence capability based on the Standard Missile Block IV (SM-3 was a derivative of this) and the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. The A50 Sylver launcher could not fire either of these missiles.
The industrial partners developing PAAMS were now at the point of being ready to sign an agreement on full-scale engineering development and initial production. The PAAMS Programme Office had virtually completed its deliberations concerning the selection of outstanding elements of the PAAMS system, as well as the allocation of work shares, while the UK Government had nearly finished its Strategic Defence Review. Aerospatiale had already begun extolling the virtues of the PAAMS system as a unique multi-mission air-defence system, which uses a single active-homing missile and sensor system to fulfil the self-defence, local-area defence (over seven kilometers) and area defence (up to fifty-five nautical miles radius). Combined with a radar that has a sufficiently high update rate (such as SAMPSON), Aster could be used in the theatre anti-ballistic missile role, but it would need both a new warhead (to produce larger fragments) and greater range.
But unfortunately by this stage the industrial, work share and management disputes surrounding the Horizon Common New Generation Frigate platform began to seem irresolvable, and delays continued too accumulate unacceptably. Finally in April 1999 the UK decided to pull out of the platform component of the CNGF, although it confirmed it would still continue with the PAAMS component. Instead it would proceed with a UK replacement to the Horizon CNGF programme - the Type 45 anti-air warfare destroyer - which would be armed with a United Kingdom variant of the PAAMS - UK PAAMS.
The main armament for the Type 45 destroyers will be the UK variant of the collaborative (UK, French, Italian) Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS). PAAMS provides the combat system to engage and destroy aircraft and sophisticated anti-ship missile targets threats both in defence of its own platform and others in its immediate area. If authorised by the command team PAAMS can conduct, fully automatically, a number of simultaneous engagements. The system will be particularly optimised for operations in littoral regions around the shore.
The UK PAAMS variant consists of a number of elements:
Closely associated, but not officially part of PAAMS is the:
The BAE Systems SAMPSON Multi-Function Radar (MFR) radar is probably the most advanced radar currently under development anywhere in the world . Key features include its multi function operation, wide aperture / high discrimination spinning faces combined with very high duty cycle electronic beam steering, and far horizon visibility from a position atop a very high foremast. [For much more background information about SAMPSON's development, read this page] Against supersonic skimming and jinking missiles, for example, range of detection and response is a vital determinant of success. That demands range of visibility and discrimination which the Sampson on Type 45 uniquely delivers, even in hostile electronic environments. This is combined with the super agile Aster missiles, which particularly thanks to their terminal phase lateral thrusters have an extraordinarily high probability of kill. Sampson plus Aster delivers a performance a generation ahead of the benchmark American developed Aegis Combat System (including the multifunction AN/SPY-1 phased array radar) and Standard SM-2 missile system which is in service, or entering service, in many Navies around the world.
Sampson is an active array radar combining in a single system surveillance and targeting data and the ability to pass up-link messages to active-homing Aster missiles in flight. Sampson uses two rotating arrays which are claimed to combine a high data rate with more pulses striking the target to provide greater accuracy and better ECCM performance. The 4.6 tonne mast-head assembly is air cooled and each sensor face has some two thousand five hundred 2-20W gallium arsenide transceivers, each with four 10W channels, providing a peak power of 25kW per face.
Sampson functionality includes long- and medium-range search, surface picture and high-speed horizon search. It can handle multiple threats simultaneously and perform tasks including multiple target tracking, rapid track conformation, multiple channel fire control, target classification, terminal homing, kill assessment, and mid-course guidance for the Aster missile. In addition to this the MFR provides the combat system with three dimensional surveillance track data and is very resistant to jamming. It supports point and area defence against current and future forecast air threats in an environment of heavy jamming and land and sea clutter.
The PAAMS project is based in Paris. The prime contractor is EUROPAAMS, jointly established by EUROSAM (a joint venture company formed by the two French companies Thomson-CSF (now Thales) and Aerospatiale Matra (now part of EADS) and the Italian company Alenia Marconi Systems) and UKAMS (a subsidiary of Matra BAe Dynamics, UK). Aerospatiale Matra is responsible for the Aster missiles and Alenia Marconi Systems for the 'Sylver' launchers, actually built by DCN of France.
A Full Scale Engineering Development and Initial Production (FSED/IP) agreement for PAAMS was signed during in August 1999 at a value of FFr15 billion ($2.3bn). The cost to the MoD of PAAMS FSED/IP is about £1 billion ($1.5bn), the contract being placed through UKAMS. The UK is paying the largest share of the FSED/IP costs because it got off lightly in the preceding "FSAF" (Future Surface-to-Air Family of missiles) Phases 1 and 2 which were funded by the French and Italians on a 50:50 basis to a total of $3 billion between1989 and 1998. However it's worth noting that other than the Sampson radar (to be used only by the UK's Type 45 destroyer's), PAAMS and its Aster missiles will still be an almost entirely French-Italian developed and manufactured product.
An initial production contract was finally awarded on 22 September 2000 on behalf of the three participating countries by the French defence procurement agency, DGA, to EUROPAAMS for the development and delivery of three PAAMS systems with 200 Aster 15 and 30 Naval missiles, these systems are to equip the first-of-class air defence vessels for each of the three countries:- a British Daring class Type 45 destroyer, a French Forbin class Horizon frigate and an Italian Bergamini class Horizon frigate. PAAMS qualification for operational service is expected between 2004 and 2006.
On 28 March 2002 a further agreement was signed by the three countries to cover the future ordering and delivery of systems and missiles for seven more ships (5 Type 45 destroyers and one more Horizon-class frigate each for France and Italy). These vessels will be commissioned between 2006 and 2009. The agreement is believed to cover between 400 and 500 additional Aster 15 and 30 Naval missiles.
The first series-produced Aster 15 Naval missiles were delivered at the beginning of December 2001 for the French Navy's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. The Charles de Gaulle is fitted with a SAAM/FR system consisting of a fire control system which integrates the Arabel multi-function radar, Sylver vertical launch modules and Aster 15 Naval missiles. On 30 October, 2002 Charles de Gaulle achieved the first successful operational firing of its SAAM/FR antimissile self-defence system.
In mid 2002 DCN said that its Ruelle plant was working on an A70 Sylver module, which is intended to be a versatile multiple missile-launcher. The weapons with which it is intended to be compatible include the ship-launched variant of MBDA's Scalp naval land-attack missile, a Aster Block 3 theatre missile-defense system, Raytheon's Tactical Tomahawk, and/or a vertically launched anti-submarine missile round. Pre-feasibility studies for the A70 variant are already in hand, and the expectation is that full-scale engineering and development can start by the beginning of 2004. First deliveries to a shipyard therefore would be possible by 2007, to be followed by the first firing of a Scalp naval missile in 2008.
On 13 November 2003 the UK Ministry of Defence formally ordered through OCCAR - the organization for joint armaments co-operation (Organisme Conjoint de Cooperation en matiere d’Armement) Aster 15 and 30 missiles worth £278 million. UKAMS, a subsidiary of defence contractor MBDA, is the prime contractor.
Anti-Ballistic Missile Capability
The 1998 UK Strategic Defence Review policy on British Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) deployment was, as one commentator put it "Wait (a long time) and see". However this policy is coming under increasing criticism as the USA and most European allies start to develop or even deploy BMD systems, leaving the UK's current position looking increasingly isolated and risky, especially as regards the protection of deployed forces. In the absence of a land-based surface-to-air missile, and in view of its expeditionary strategy, adaptation of the Type 45 destroyer to BMD is becoming an obvious option. Although no decision has yet been officially taken, in May 2000 the Ministry of Defence said that the Type 45's were being built with the capacity to fire BMD interceptor missiles, a spokesman saying, "The Type 45 has been built with enough space to put in longer missiles. What would be needed for BMD is a booster motor. The UK and the French have been examining this and looking at the potential for Aster to be turned into a BMD missile."
It's hoped to follow this with a "Block 2" version capable of dealing with much more sophisticated and longer-range (1,000+ km) ballistic missiles, this will use a new "Aster 45" missile with an enlarged booster stage and if the go-ahead is given in 2002 it could enter service around 2010-2012. As of June 2005, Aster 45 has no firm timeline.
At the moment Aster Block 1 and 2 are land-only systems, but relevant parts of the "Block 2" system could be adopted by the UK (and the other partners) in to a proposed navalised Block 3 to give PAAMS on the Type 45 destroyers an ATBM capability (sometimes designated ABM-PAAMS or PABMS). This capability would approach that of the USN's Navy Area Defense (NAD) system which will enter service on AEGIS equipped cruisers and destroyers armed with the Standard SM2 Block IVA missile from 2003. NAD is a so called "Lower Tier" solution and will be able intercept ballistic targets in their final descent phase, within the lower half of the appreciable atmosphere, and provide protection to vital areas ashore such as ports, airfields and cities within range of the defending ship - up to about 100 nautical miles.
The USN was also developing an "Upper Tier" Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) capability to be based on the new Standard SM-3 missile. This Navy Theater-Wide (NTW) system was to be capable of ascent- and mid-course phase intercepts of ballistic targets outside the atmosphere, and in so doing provide much wider protection (hence 'theatre-wide') than is being considered for PAAMS. NTW was to be deployed from 2007 but technical problems and cost escalation lead to cancellation in early 2002.
In a huge grey building on Portsdown Hill, near Portsmouth, BAE Systems’ has been developed the Maritime Integration Support Centre (MISC). This is being used to try out combat, control and command systems for the Type 45 destroyers, and later on the Future Aircraft Carriers, sparing the ships long months of tests and trials at sea. A dedicated computer complex will put the ships’ sophisticated radar and command systems through their pace, including early versions of the Principal Anti-Air Missile System.
A full LRR mast structure has already been installed at MISC, and a fully outfitted Sampson Multi-Function Radar (MFR) foremast structure was built by VT and accepted by BAE Systems just before Christmas 2004.
."Without a centre like the MISC, it would not be possible to provide Type 45s for the Navy in time,” said Andrew Bowden of BAE Systems’ Type 45 Project. Using shore bases to test sea systems is not new; the difference here is that this is much larger – we’ve got one eye on the future.”
The £15m complex resembles the destroyers to some degree, with a mock-up bridge and working main and aft masts and radar fitted eventually, as well as operations and communications rooms in the heart of the building.
Already working is an early version of the computer tracking system, complete with three full-colour screens which allows an operator to keep tabs on targets and friendly forces.
There will be around 25 such consoles in the real Type 45 operations room, which will be much less dark and cramped than Type 42, 23 and carrier equivalents.
First delivery by Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS, now BAE Systems Insyte) of functional CS software to the Type 45 Prime Contract Office (PCO) for use by UKAMS took place in August 2003. The final delivery was originally scheduled for June 2005, and will be used to support the first Longbow firing trials in the Mediterranean, but that has slipped by about 2 years.
The eight planned releases are now occurring at roughly 6-9 month intervals. The fourth (Release 2.1.0) was delivered in early 2005 and was the first with full PAAMS and LRR functionality) and the fifth (2.2.0) arrived in November 2005 and is now being used for integration activities . The CS software is hosted on a 8-console mini combat management system and enables UKAMS to integrate the Command and weapon control element of PAAMS with the CMS. Elements of the Combat Management System are now (May 2006) being tested onboard Longbow and further system integration is scheduled as both the Command System (CS) software development progresses and other Combat System Equipment (CSE) arrives.
In September 2003 Data Transfer Systems (DTS) software developed by Alenia Marconi Systems was made made available to the PCO to supply to other combat system equipment suppliers to support further CSE development at their sites. It will also be available to the Combat System TIPT for use at the MISC. Further deliveries of DTS tests environments have also been made to UKAMS, via the T45 PCO, for use at UKAMS land based test facilities.
meteorological and navigation system (METOC) software development has completed and a partial
system was due to complete its Factory Acceptance test in September 2003 prior
to delivery to the MISC. System integration activities for a complete
system were scheduled to complete in October '03. This system will then
be available for delivery for the FoC in 2004.
It was announced in September 2001 that British Marine Technology (BMT) had been awarded a £12m contract by UKAMS (a wholly owned subsidiary of Matra-Bae) to supply and operate a Sea Trials Platform in order to support the development and on-range testing of the UK variant of the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) for the Royal Navy's new Type 45 destroyers. BMT were to repair, convert and commission the specialist Ministry of Defence missile trials barge LONGBOW, formerly the salvage barge 'Dynamic Servant', which was purchased by MoD in 1984 for service as the test platform for the Sea Wolf VLS missile system. On completion of those trials, in 1989 Longbow was laid up in Brixham harbour. The trials barge is 108 metres long and displaces 12,000 tonnes (8,145 tonnes gross), and has a crew of about 12 plus the trails team.
BMT Marine Procurement Ltd subcontracted the repair and conversion work to naval ship repair group Fleet Support Limited (FSL). Longbow (designated STP-2) was towed to Portsmouth in September 2003 to undergo what was then expected to be 8 month refit, FSL overhauling all the existing machinery and equipment, and upgrading the accommodation and life-saving aspects of the vessel to current Lloyd's Register Classification Standards.
Work started in earnest in April 2004 and by May 2005 FSL in Portsmouth was completing refurbishment (which proved to be far more extensive than expected) and conversion work on the Longbow. As part of the conversion, a 25-metre tall replica Type 45 foremast was added. Work then practically halted for a a year but in September 2006 the second pre-production Sampson multifunction radar was installed on Longbow (mounted 35m above the waterline) following completion of its trials and qualification activities at BAE Systems. This was followed by the fitting of an eight cell Sylver A50 missile silo - including all the associated equipment - and the integration of the missile and radar systems.
Actual missile firing trials were originally scheduled to take place off Aberporth, commencing in mid-2005, but in 2003 the plan was changed to using the French Centre d'Essais de Lancement Missiles (CELM) test range, near Toulon in the South of France. In October/November 2007 STP-2 Longbow was towed to the Mediterranean and by the end of the 2007 was moored to a large buoy on the edge of the Banc du Magaud in waters up to 200m deep. With a turntable on the top, the buoy will permit Longbow to rotate around it, thus missile testing need not be delayed by the tide and weather.
After instrumentation and calibration of STP-2 was completed, live firing trials of the Aster 15 and the Aster 30 anti-air missiles commenced.
The Royal Navy’s Principal Anti-Air Missile System (Sampson) was first test fired for the first time on 4 June 2008 from the trials barge Longbow at the French DGA’s CELM test range near the Ile du Levant off the French coast. The trial comprised the firing of a single Aster 30 missile, launched against a Mirach target simulating an aircraft flying travelling at 450 mph and at a 10km altitude. The Aster missile successfully achieved a direct hit on the target at 35km range.
In a supporting press release, MBDA said that "all the PAAMS (S) system elements have been set to work on the first of class Type 45, HMS Daring and system integration is now in progress. Deliveries of PAAMS equipment to the second Type 45, HMS Dauntless, are complete. The next PAAMS(S) firing trial is planned in the second half of the year with the final system firing trial to take place in 2009. "
Upon completion of the PAAMS trials, BMT will decommission Longbow and the PAAMS equipment will be returned to MoD, some of which will then be fitted to HMS Daring or her sisters.
© 2004-10 Richard Beedall unless otherwise indicated.