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Aspide Mk1/Mk2

The Italian Aspide, basically a licensed version of the American Sparrow, is similarly employed as both an air-to-air and surface-to-air missile, and in the later role it is launched from both ships and ground platforms. The AIM-7E Sparrow entered service in 1962 and was widely used as a standard for other variants such as the Sky Flash (UK) and Aspide (Italy).

The Chinese PL-11 medium-range AAM is based on the Aspide, which was acquired by China in the late 1980s for use in the air-to-air roles, and as with the American and Italian version, subsequently in the LY-60 system modified for both ground and naval air defence applications. In reaction to the Tiananmen Square massacre, the European Council--an EU decision-making body comprised of ministers from EU member countries--imposed several sanctions in June 1989, including "an embargo on trade in arms with China." The deliveries of Italian Aspide air-to-air missiles appear to have been made in connection with pre-embargo agreements. Although a contract for the Aspide system has been signed with Italian firm Alinea, the government in Rome had not given its permission to export the missiles to Cyprus, fearing the deployment would only fuel existing tensions.

Through Alenia Difesa, Finmeccanica offers a complete range of systems, including the surface to air systems based on the Aspide missile (Spada, Skyguard, Albatros, ARAMIS;.

Selenia built AIM-7E Sparrow air-to-air missiles under licence from Raytheon and also produced the airborne launching and guidance system installed in the F-104S. Sparrow was superseded by Selenia's own Aspide 1A. Although superficially similar to Sparrow, and derived from it, Aspide is a completely Italian design. The range and speed are greater than those of AIM-7E and the missile approximates to Raytheon's AIM-7F. The forward airframe and radome have been redesigned for more efficient operation at hypersonic speeds and the guidance is completely new — it is smaller and lighter than that of AIM-7E, and has better ECM resistance and new fuzing systems.

The Aspide missile is a multi-role, point defence, supersonic missile (Mach 2.0), powered by a single stage solid propellent rocket motor. Four movable wings, arranged in a 45 degree off center line pattern, are situated along the missile fuselage, for roll stabilizatipn and steering control, while other four fixed fins, in line with the control surfaces, provide aerodynamic lift and stability. The type of guidance is the semi-active guidance with proportion navigation. The target is illuminated by the CW energy generated by the system illuminator. The Aspide missile seeker receives the target echo in its front receiver and the direct illuminator signal in the rear receiver.

Design objectives for Aspide were compatibility with existing Sparrow equipment; greater range for the surfaceto-air role; improved ECM resistance; and better low-level capability, including snap-down ability in the air-to-air role. Aspide was optimised for both surface-to-air and air-to-air roles, unlike Sparrow, and production deliveries began in 1977. Target price is the same as or slightly less than AIM-7F, i.e. about $100,000.

Albatros shipboard SAM

Aspide replaced Sparrow in the Albatros shipboard SAM system which Selenia describes as being for self-defence and mutual protection, falling between point defence and area defence. The system is available with three versions of launcher (four, six and eight cells) to suit ship fitting requirements. Two missile versions can be supplied with the system: the standard ASPIDE for point defence; and the ASPIDE 2000 for local area or consort ship defence. The Continuous Wave (CW) transmitter provides the RF power necessary for the missile guidance that is radiated towards the targets through the Fire Control System tracker antenna.

Albatros uses Selenia RTN10XM Orion pulse-Doppler and RTN-12X Sirio continuous wave radars for target tracking and illumination. The co-located radars operate together, the RTN-10XM being the first Orion model to incorporate frequency agility rather than frequency diversity, and the RTN-12X with moving-target indication acting as a low-level gap filler. The ability to overcome land clutter is important because of Italian Navy operations near the Mediterranean shoreline.

The Albatros missile system is to be considered as a part of the ship's air defence system that interfaces with be ship's gunfire control system. The system provides for the store, launching and guidance of the Aspide missiles. The Albatros missile system provides control for the firing of the Aspide missiles against the assigned target. The system interfaces with the Gun Fire Control System (GFCS) through the Missile Section Control Unit. This unit contains a computer and performs the supervision and control of operation of the complete system. The CW energy for target illumination and missile reference, is generated by the Cw transmitter group and injected directly into the Gun Fire Control System waveguide assembly for radiation through the tracker antenna. Missile firing is controlled at the Weapon Control Console of the associated GFCS by means of a - missile control panel. Initial orders to the launcher are sent during the acquisition phase, for moving the launcher in the stand-by condition to the present point direction. The maximum firing rate is one missile every 2.5 seconds.

Operation of the systems begins when the incoming targets are detected by the RTN 30X monopulse tracking radar. The target information is then transfered to the NA 30 integrated weapon control system. The system commands the RTN 12X CW illuminating radar to illuminate the target and launch the missile. The Aspide missile seeker receives the target echo in its front receiver and the direct illuminator signal from RTN 12X in the rear receiver. In processing the two signals, there results target doppler, which is used for automatic target range rate tracking.

If the target radiates a jamming signal to deny the target echo to the missile, the guidance system switches to the passive home-on-jam mode. In this mode, the missile derives the guidance information from the jamming signal emitted by the target, thus allowing it to successfully continue the intercept with the target. If the jamming transmitter is turned off, the missile switches back to the semi-active homing mode again.

Selenia built ten Albatros systems for the Italian Navy, all cruisers, destroyers and frigates eventually being equipped during the course of normal refits. The first two vessels became operational with the weapon in 1976; the systems used Sparrow at first, later being converted to Aspide. Higher-power radars may be necessary to take advantage of Aspide's increased range, and Selenia is hopeful that its new missile will be effective against sea-skimmers.

The Peruvian Navy ordered four Albatros systems and a second export contract is in the final stages of negotiation. This latter order is not part of an Italian "package" deal, unlike the Peruvian contract and the expected Venezuelan order. At least three other navies asked for details of Albatros to fill a specific requirement. The system was offered in two versions, with single- and double-channel fire-control. The single-channel variant, intended for ships down to corvette size, was offered at between $2-2 million and $2-3 million—including the launcher and fire-control for the missiles and up to three guns with two different ballistic characteristics, but excluding the missiles and guns themselves.

By 2019 the system was in service in 16 countries worldwide, on various classes of warship, from OPVs up to destroyers and aircraft carriers. Albatros is a well proven, all weather and highly ECM resistant naval system designed to counter aircraft, UAVs, helicopters at sea, as well as sea skimming and diving anti-ship missiles and PGMs.


The third planned application of Aspide is in the Spada point-defence system developed for the Italian Air Force. Spada was originally based on Sparrow but that missile lacked range and lethality, so a full circle has been turned and Aspide had to fulfil Spada requirements. Spada used high-power search and tracking radars to exploit Aspide's long range; metal was cut on the tracker-illuminator radar (TTR) in 1974, but search-radar development is running late and existing equipment may be used as an interim measure. The prototype basic group of Aspide, TTR and launcher was due to begin tests at the beginning of 1976, with production models becoming available in 1978.

Spada defended air bases, bridges, etc, against preplanned low-level attacks (below the NADGE screen), the enemy knowing the most favourable attack and escape routes. It is designed to be superior to existing systems such as Crotale in ECM and saturation resistance, lethality and range. Spada has been designed on a modular basis, the smallest configuration, or battery, consisting of a search and interrogation radar, two TIRs and a pair of four-missile launchers with a colocated control centre. This arrangement, known as Spada A, can be built up to Spada B by arranging several fire sections around a detection centre which draws information from Nadge or civil ATC. Spada C consists of a number of detection centres under command of an operations control centre.

The use of Aspide in Spada gave it a good angle-off capability and allows deployment as a gap-filler in a conventional air-defence chain. Selenia is now concentrating on making the system more mobile rather than merely transportable.

This new system, delivered to the Italian Air Force, was added to the SELENIA weapon system product line - the SPADA ground-to-air missile system. Among the others in existance SPADA was the first system designed from the beginning for the air-defence of objectives of vital importance from heavy ECM supported attacks carried out at high speed and very low altitude by highly maneuvering aircraft or tactical air-to surface missile.

The proven capability of SELENIA in the field of radars, both search and teacking, of C3 systems as well as missile allowed the design of a weapon system of operational concept. Thanks to the extended coverage of the PLUTO search radar and the munition used, the ASPIDE multirole missile, are both fielded by a remarkable number of users. The high degree of ECM resistance, of system coordination, target identification capability as well as the linking with higher level ADC. The SPADA effectiveness in reaction has been brought to the highest level then achievable.

The SPADA 200 provides enhanced all-weather air defence system for the protection of sensitive ground sites (air bases, ports, industrial plants, important buildings). Deploying powerful ASPIDE 2000 semi-active missiles, the 20 km intercept coverage of the system ensures that air platforms are prevented from releasing their airborne weapons from short range.

The basic system configuration comprises:

  • A detection center, for tactical operational control
  • 2 firing sections (expandable to 4)
  • 1 or 2 missile launcher(s) per firing section

Easily transportable by truck, train or by aircraft (C-130 fully compatible), the system can integrate and co-ordinate additional V-SHORADS andanti-air artilleries (up to 10) deployed within a 10 km range from the detection centre. In addition, SPADA can be connected to a higher-level air defence architecture.

The system is in service in Spain and Italy.

Aspide 2000 (aka: Aspide Mk II)

The Aspide 2000 missile is the powerful upgraded version of the Aspide multi-role missile for use in surface-to-air systems. The Aspide 2000 wss formerly called Aspide Mk II. System is also called Skyguard gun/missile air defense system. Skyguard links to the IADS to get digital AD warnings and. Data. Associated radar for EW and TA data is radar at Bde and Div Tier 1 and 2. System can also pass data to the net.

Its operational performance has been enhanced making the missile capable of engaging attacking aircraft before they can release their airborne stand-off rocket propelled missiles. Thanks to its outstanding capabilities in range, it can ensure a wide area defence against all type of air threats. The Aspide 2000 missile is equipped with an enhanced single stage rocket motor to increase the missile speed, lateral acceleration and effective range by as much as 40% compared to the Aspide baseline missile. It incorporates all modern electronic features to improve its guidance characteristics and effectiveness in heavy clutter and ECM environments.

ASPIDE 2000 is compatible with all systems currently using the ASPIDE baseline missile (ALBATROS/ASPIDE, SPADA/ASPIDE and SKYGUARD/ ASPIDE, AMOUN) by simply applying a system modification kit at the second maintenance level with complete reuse of existing logistics support.

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