In an intriguing tale of military strategy and economic practicality, the French Navy has recently found itself in the limelight for employing its Aster 15 missiles against inexpensive drones operated by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.
The Pricey Nature of Warfare
When it comes to matters of defense and security, costs can quickly skyrocket. In the case of the French Navy, for instance, the Aster 15 missiles used against these drones carry a hefty price tag, ranging anywhere between 1 and 1.5 million euros apiece. The drones targeted, purportedly, cost only a fraction of that, coming in at approximately 20,000 dollars each.
Cost-Effectiveness of Military Decisions
Such a glaring disparity in price points inevitably raises questions about the cost-effectiveness of using such expensive weaponry against inexpensive drones. A key counterpoint to this, asserted by the French analysis, rests on evaluating the worth of the assets being safeguarded, rather than simply the cost of the missile deployed.
The Threat to the Languedoc Frigate
The French Navy's decision to employ the Aster 15 missiles was not made in a vacuum. On the frontlines, the Languedoc frigate found itself directly in the crosshairs of the drone attacks. It was in response to this imminent threat that Vice-admiral Emmanuel Slaars justified the use of the Aster 15 missiles as a necessary measure to protect both navy personnel and assets.
The Drones: More than Meets the Eye?
Despite their modest price tag, these Houthi-operated drones may pack more punch than their cost suggests. While there is speculation that the drones may possess advanced capabilities, which would make them more costly than estimated, this claim remains unverified.
Alternatives and the Future of Frigate Defense
It's worth noting that the Languedoc's air defense arsenal is not limited to the Aster 15 missiles. The frigate also houses a 76mm turret which has been tested against drones during exercises. However, using this alternative may not always be operationally feasible.
Interestingly, there is only one recorded instance of a British destroyer deploying its 114mm cannon against Houthi drones. This consequently has the French Navy reassessing the surface-to-air capabilities of its frigates.
Looking towards the future of frigate defense, there have been discussions about integrating VL Mica NG missiles onto Greek defense and intervention frigates.
A Costly Conversation
While the value of military tactics can be difficult to ascertain, there is no doubt that the French Armed Forces Chief of Staff has been drawn into the ongoing discourse regarding the economics of warfare. During these discussions, the Chief of Staff has made it clear that the need to develop inexpensive, expendable weapons alongside high-tech decision-making weapons is vital.