Video: French Navy Still Fielding and Firing SM-1 Medium Range SAM

The French Navy (Marine Nationale) released pictures and a video of a relatively recent live fire involving the venerable SM-1MR medium range surface to air missile. The French Navy is one of the few navies still fielding this missile designed in the mid-1960ies.

Video French Navy Still Fielding and Firing SM 1 Medium Range SAM20/02/2018 Mediterranean Sea - The French Navy Cassard-class anti-aircraft frigate "Jean Bart" is a firing two SM-1MR missiles against a towed target. Marine Nationale picture by François Bogaert.

The live firing test involved the Cassard-class anti-aircraft frigate "Jean Bart" and place in the Mediterranean sea in February. The video shows the frigates launching two "live" (yellow stripes) missiles (firing of two missiles as per NATO doctrine) against a towed target.

The weapon system is commonly called Tartar in the French Navy (tracing back to its original linkage to the RIM-24 Tartar missile) but it actually utilizes the SM-1MR Block VI (U.S. designation: RIM-66E). Aboard Cassard-class frigates, the system is composed of a vertical rotating magazine holding 40 missiles, a Mk 13 launcher, two AN/SPG-51C fire-control radars and a new SMART-S Mk2 radar (it replaced the much older DRBJ11 in 2012 and 2013).

Production of the SM-1MR Block VI missile ended in 1987. The missile was retired from U.S. Navy service in 2003. It is expected to reach its "end of shelf life" (read "use by date") around 2020. The U.S. Navy announced at the International STANDARD Missile Users Group (ISMUG) meeting in 2012 that support for SM-1 will end in 2020. They have urged all SM-1 users around the world to begin planning on replacing SM-1 aboard the ships they plan to keep past 2020. A solution would be to replace the SM-1 with SM-2 Block IIIA missiles. According the Raytheon, in order to safely fire SM-2 missiles, the MK 13 GMLS would need two ordnance alterations (ORDALTs) performed.

French Navy video of the SM-1MR firing.

The French Navy has long decided not go down that path however: The two final FREMM frigates, Alsace and Lorraine, will be delivered to the French Navy before the end of 2022. These frigates will be equipped with strengthened air defence capacities and are intended to replace the two Cassard class frigates and their SM-1 missiles. They might even get ballistic missile defense capabilities. The assembly of the FREMM Alsace at Naval Group's Lorient shipyard started in the spring of 2018.

In the meantime, the video shows that the live SM-1 firing from Jean Bart was a success, meaning there is still some life in these missiles despite their age.

About the Cassard-class
The Cassard class guided-missile destroyers (typed by the French Navy as frégates antiaériennes type F 70 AA or anti-aircraft frigates) are intended to participate in anti-aircraft operations, escort of capital ships (such as aircraft carriers or large amphibious vessels) as well as air and sea control. Both vessels of the class are homeported in Toulon naval base and are part of the Force d'Action Navale (Naval Action Force).

Marine Nationale picture by Yoann LetourneauMarine Nationale picture by Yoann LetourneauMarine Nationale picture by François Bogaert.Marine Nationale picture by François Bogaert.Marine Nationale picture by François Bogaert.