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11:10 AM, June 15, 2016
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France and Italy have signed a cooperation agreement on development of the MBDA Aster Block 1 New Technology missile, the French Defence Ministry said in a statement.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Italian counterpart, Roberta Pinotti, signed the agreement on June 14 in Paris.

The program aims to extend the Aster 30’s range to hit incoming ballistic missiles, one of Europe’s contributions to NATO’s program for an anti-ballistic missile shield.

“This decision reflects a shared determination to maintain the capabilities of the ground-based air defense system to the highest requirements and its Aster missile to respond to a full range of airborne threats,” the ministry said.

In addition to upgrading the existing Aster missile, the program includes modernization of the SAMP/T systems that are currently used by the French air force and the Italian army, MBDA said.

"These systems as a result will see themselves featuring enhanced capabilities notably against ballistic missiles and thereby making essential contribution to the NATO programme in this domain," the company said in a statement Tuesday.

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