Italy to donate SAMP/T missile air defense systems to Ukraine

Italy, teaming up with France, has confirmed it is ready to supply Ukraine with its SAMP/T air defense system after weeks of doubt over Rome’s readiness to hand over the costly system, Tom Kington reports in Defense News. Its dispatching was confirmed to Defense News by a spokesman for Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani, who announced the decision in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: “In collaboration with France we are finalizing the dispatch of SAMP/T while there are also other initiatives on which we are also working secretly,” Tajani told the newspaper.
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Firing of an Aster 30/SAMP/T air defense missile (Picture source: Thales)

Aster 30 SAMP/T (Sol-Air Moyenne Portée/Terrestre, or Medium Range Air Defense/Ground, christened Mamba by the French Air Force) is a mobile air defense system developed by France and Italy theatre protection. It protects sensitive sites and deployed forces against missile threats (TBM, stand-off, cruise missiles, ARM), drones and aircraft, replacing all existing medium-range ground-to-air systems. The system includes the Aster 30 missile, which has a range of up to 300km, and is capable of engaging multiple targets simultaneously. It can be used in both a ground-based and a naval configuration The Aster 30 SAMP/T system can operate in stand-alone mode or can be integrated into a coordinated network.

Aster is a two-stage missile, a concept that leads to the maximum effectiveness of the interceptor stage. The solid propellant booster ensures the optimum shaping of the missile’s trajectory in the direction of the target and separates a few seconds after the vertical launch. Up to its mid-course, the weapon is inertially guided, using refreshed target data transmitted by the engagement module through the multi-function radar. During the homing phase, guidance is achieved by an electromagnetic active seeker providing a highly accurate capability in all weathers.

SAMP/T air defense system entered into service with the French armed forces in 2010 and with the Italian army in 2013. Italy only has five SAMP/T batteries, leading to concerns over the weakening of Italy’s defense capabilities if it supplies one to Ukraine, Tom Kington writes. The 2023 defense budget document contained plans to buy a 6th battery for the army and a further 5 to protect Air Force assets. But with just 5 batteries in service now, analysts speculated Italy might opt for supplying its older, and more abundant Skyguard-Aspide weapon system.

Asked about SAMP/T earlier this month, Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani told an Italian radio station: “It takes time because there are technical problems to make the instruments work, the military commands are working on this”. But in his interview on January 22, he signaled that the transfer was going ahead, claiming it would form part of a 6th package of arms sent by Italy to Ukraine. The first five had been worth €1 billion, he added, quoted by Tom Kington.