Italy orders four SAMP/T new-generation air defense systems

Italy orders four SAMP/T new-generation air defense systems

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PARIS — Europe’s Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation signed a contract for four SAMP/T NG air-defense systems for the Italian Army, as armed forces across the continent continue to upgrade their missile defenses.

The amendment to an existing framework contract also includes upgraded Aster air defense missiles for Italy’s army and navy, prepares future serial production of SAMP/T NG systems for the French Air Force and covers the U.K buying more equipment for the mid-life update of its Aster intercepters, OCCAR said in a Feb. 1 statement. The European organization manages defense-equipment projects.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created urgency among European countries to beef up air defense, as well as replace systems donated to Ukraine. Germany has rankled French sensitivities by proposing the IRIS-T system by Diehl Defence and the U.S.-made Patriot for its European Sky Shield Initiative, rather than the SAMP/T developed by Thales and missile maker MBDA.

The global context “demonstrates the importance to provide upgraded air-defense systems to be able to face more and more challenging threats,” OCCAR said.

French President Emmanuel Macron in June warned against rushing to buy air defense capabilites, as purchasing off-the-shelf would mean a lot of non-European equipment. He called the war in Ukraine a brutal reminder of the vital nature of air defense.

In addition to SAMP/T and IRIS-T, European missile air defense systems include the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, better known as NASAMS, developed by Kongsberg and Raytheon. All three systems as well as Patriot have been supplied to Ukraine.

Norway ordered new NASAMS launchers and fire distribution centers to replace equipment donated to Ukraine for about 1.4 billion kroner (U.S. $123 million), Kongsberg said on Jan. 31.

SAMP/T NG is an enhanced version of the system in use with the French and Italian forces, equipped with new-generation Aster intercepters and more powerful multifunctional radars from either Thales or Leonardo. The system will be delivered from 2025, according to Eurosam, the French-German joint venture that is the main contractor.

OCCAR in July signed an amendment to the framework air defense missile contract, known by its combined French-Italian acronym FSAF-PAAMS, for the purchase of five SAMP/T NG systems for the Italian Air Force, with a value of about €700 million.

SAMP/T NG has a detection range of more than 350 kilometers and an intercept range of more than 150 kilometers, and can engage multiple targets at the same time, according to Eurosam. The system uses MBDA’s Aster missile, a 450 kg (992 lb) two-stage intercepter with a length of 4.9 meters (16 ft) that can reach Mach 4.5 and is capable of high G manoeuvres.

A complete SAMP/T NG system includes a radar providing 360-degree coverage, a command-and-control module, and as many as six launchers, each fitted with eight Aster 30 missiles, with a battery typically requiring 20 crew members, according to the manufacturers. Each launcher can fire its eight missiles in about 10 seconds.

Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.

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