TechFrench Frigate Alsace's Historic Missile Defense Victory Revealed

French Frigate Alsace's Historic Missile Defense Victory Revealed

Launching of the Aster missile from a FREMM-type frigate
Launching of the Aster missile from a FREMM-type frigate
Images source: © Public domain

2:18 PM EDT, March 28, 2024

France recently disclosed that one of its frigates played a crucial role in defending a convoy of container ships from ballistic missile attacks emanating from Yemen. This operation marked the combat debut of the French unit, which was hailed as a complete success.

The French Navy's FREMM class frigate, Alsace, was at the forefront of this defense initiative. Deployed as an anti-aircraft variant, FREMM DA, Alsace is outfitted with cutting-edge technology. Key to its arsenal is the Thales Herakles radar, supplied by the Thales corporation, which excels in target detection. Furthermore, the ship boasts a 32-container vertical launch system primed for launching Aster 15 and Aster 30 anti-aircraft missiles.

During this specific engagement, the frigate utilized Aster 30 missiles. These missiles, developed by the MBDA corporation, are formidable projectiles. Measuring 14 feet long and weighing 1124 pounds, they can neutralize targets up to 75 miles away. Their design allows them to navigate at forces up to 50G.

The incident occurred in March 2023 but was only made public after a year. The French vessel, while patrolling the Red Sea, detected ballistic missiles directed not only towards it but also towards nearby civilian trading vessels.

The Battle of the French Frigate Alsace

Once the Alsace detected the incoming missiles traveling at speeds close to Mach 5, the crew took decisive action to intercept and eradicate them. Defence 24 shared insights into the encounter, highlighting France's approach's effectiveness in engaging fast-moving targets—a strategy that diverges from the American methodology.

This distinction stems from the radar technologies deployed on American and French ships. American AEGIS combat system-equipped ships, and by extension some Polish vessels like the "Miecznik", employ stationary wall antennas. This setup allows for uninterrupted surveillance, eliminating the need for radar antenna rotation.

In contrast, the Alsace relies on data from its rotating Herakles radar during combat. Despite potential gaps in tracking due to the radar's rotation, this did not hinder the frigate's capability to tackle high-speed threats. The performance of the Aster missiles was flawless, as they successfully located and eliminated the incoming missiles, validating the effectiveness of France's defense strategy.
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