PARIS — France has pitched the Aster 30 missile to Sweden, as the Scandinavian nation explores acquisition of a ground-based air defense system, a senior French official said.

"We are in talks with Sweden," the official said Tuesday at the Eurosatory defense trade show. There is a competition but if Stockholm joined the "Aster 30 club," that would open the door for Saab to join an industrial partnership on the French-Italian missile program.

Kongsberg has offered the Network Centric Air Defence System (NASAMS) with its US partner Raytheon, said Kyrre Lohne, Kongsberg vice president for strategic communications.

Increased tension with Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis has spurred some European nations to increase defense spending and review their military capabilities.

Sweden is holding government-to-government talks in its search for a new missile system, an industry executive said at the trade exhibition.

NASAMS has been to Poland, which is looking to buy a short-range air defense system, Lohne said.

Besides Aster and NASAMS, Sweden will likely consider Diehl, builder of the IRIS-T guided-missile family Iris T range, Rafael, and MBDA UK with the common anti-air modular missile, a second executive said.

The Aster program yesterday entered a new phase, as France and Italy signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on the Aster Block 1 New Technology, a version which extends the missile's range.

If Sweden were to order Aster, European agency Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'Armement would act as intermediary, the French official said.

Raytheon declined to comment. A US government official was not available for comment.

On NASAMS, Kongsberg supplies the core network capability for tracking targets, while Raytheon delivers a choice of short- and medium-range missiles. The US installed NASAMS in 2005 in Washington in response to the 9/11 attack in 2001.

MBDA is due to deliver the Aster 30 Block 1 NT in 2023, intended to hit incoming missiles that can maneuver and have a range of 1,300 kilometers. That compares to Block 1, which intercepts missiles — such as Scud B — with a range of 600 kilometers. Thales and MBDA cooperate through the Eurosam joint venture, with the former supplying the ARABEL Multi-Function Radar and the latter the missile.

Italy is sending the Aster to Turkey, replacing Patriot missiles from Germany, as part of a NATO plan to defend the Turkish border from strikes originating in Syria. This is the missile's second deployment following the Italian dispatch of multimission frigates to the Libyan coast to enforce a no-fly zone.

Britain fits the Aster on the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers.

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