Italy looks for a Stinger replacement assigning a preliminary study to MBDA Italia

EDR On-Line editorial staff

The Italian Ministry of Defence and Army want a new generation man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS) to be developed by MBDA Italia with the national industry. During a public hearing in front of the Defence Commissions of the two Italian Parliament Chambers last February, the Italian Army Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Pietro Serino, speaking about the lessons acquired with the Ukraine conflict and the consequent need and funding for new weapon systems, and specifically elaborating about the air defence domain, said “we need to proceed with enhancing in a coherent and integrated way ground-based air defence (GBAD) capabilities under an overall multi-layer architecture. It will include the new medium-range SAMP/T NG, being developed jointly by Italy and France, the new (Grifo) SHORAD system based on the joint Italy and UK’s CAMM-ER missile, while enhancing VSHORAD capabilities against fixed, rotary-wing assets as well as artillery, rockets and mini and micro-drones. This all managed by an integrated command and control system.”. Referring to the VSHORAD domain and the replacement of the FIM-92C Stinger RMP (Reprogrammable Micro Processor), “the Italian Army is working on a new missile system to be developed by the national industry led by MBDA Italia, being available in both man-portable and vehicle-launched configurations, using the same effector, where the counter-drone and CRAM capabilities will be provided by a missile-centred weapon system with detection, identification and tracking capability installed on a new armoured infantry fighting family vehicle to be developed under the AICS (Armoured Infantry Combat System) programme.”

“To answer this requirement, MBDA Italia has been awarded a preliminary study to establish a programme and launch a development phase that will leverage technology blocks already available within the company with the involvement of national industry to reach a very short and challenging fielding time,” said Lorenzo Mariani, MBDA Italia Managing Director and Group Director Sales and Business Development MBDA, emphasizing the time issue. According to the head of MBDA Italia, “we are working to be awarded a development contract to ensure the launch of qualification activities by the end 2025-beginning 2026. He also mentioned that this development programme is among the contracts to be acquired by late 2023.

“For the time-being thus is a national programme,” he stated, underlining however that it is open to other countries participation. MBDA Italia aims at developing a shoulder-launched missile capable to enhance the operational envelope of current Stingers and ensure a greater capacity to cope with countermeasures launched or carried by targeted aircraft, EDR On-Line understood. The company is expected to lead a national industrial team including Leonardo for the seeker, which should be an imaging infrared (IIR) sensor with algorithms and guidance developed by MBDA, Avio providing the propulsion package.

Beside the infantry version, MBDA is already working on a turreted version which is aimed at light armoured vehicles, hence a four-six missiles load can be envisaged. As for cueing, it is to see if MBDA is looking for an all-in-one solution, able to operate for example stand-alone in a convoy protection role, or it is considering a distributed solution with sensors and effectors installed on different platforms.

The new generation VSHORAD missile will complement the family of air defence system being offered by MBDA, namely the well-proven pedestal- and vehicle-mounted Mistral 3 system as well as longer range CAMM and VL MICA missile families.

While in the past Italian Army manoeuvre brigades had a VSHORAD capacity within their artillery regiments, which had one air defence battery each, now all that capacity has been concentrated in two Air Defence units, the 17th Regiment based in Sabaudia, co-located with the Air Defence Command, and the 121st Regiment based in Bologna. As the Italian Army seems to be considering newmobile air defence platforms, this might bring organic air defence assets within manoeuvre brigades, with tracked platforms deloyed itno heavy brigades and wheeled platforms into medium brigades, light brigades being probably equipped with light armoured vehicles also fitted with air defence systems, while VSHORAD shoulder-launched systems distribution might also be extended to manoeuvre units.

Photo courtesy P. Valpolini