The Eurosam JV launched production of new generation SAMP/T NG air defence system

Luca Peruzzi

A key milestone in the Franco-Italian SAMP/T NG (New Generation) land-based air defence missile system programme was achieved this month after the then Director of the OCCAR Executive Administration (EA) Matteo Bisceglia and the Managing Director of Eurosam Eva Bruxmeier signed the contract to produce the new system. “This month, Eurosam launched the global production of the SAMP/T NG, a major milestone which will lead, according to plans, to the delivery of the system to the French and Italian Forces by the end of 2025, with system’s availability for delivery to all present and potential customers from 2026,” said Eva Bruxmeier, managing director of the JV, talking to the media at IDEX/NAVDEX 2023 exhibition, this week in Abu Dhabi.

Established in 1989, as a cooperation between France and Italy, joined in 1996 by the UK, the Eurosam JV formed by MBDA and Thales has become the prime contractor, responsible for system performances and system design authority for design, engineering, production, sales and support of the Family of Surface to Air Systems (FSAF) including the SAAM-IT, SAAM-FR and PAAMS-E in the naval, alongside the SAMP/T in the ground-based domains. The SAMP/T is currently in service with the French Air and Space Force and the Italian Army while naval and ground Aster missile-based systems are in service in 12 armed forces around the world. Recently the Italian Air Force selected the SAMP/T NG.

In service since 2011 the SAMP/T was qualified in 2013 against tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) of the 300 km class, and with external cueing against 600 km TBMs. Based on the emerging threats posed not only by advanced air breathing targets but also longer range tactical ballistic missiles, the French and Italian MoDs decided to upgrade the SAMP/T with the development of the latest version of the MBDA Aster 30 missile family, the Block 1 NT (New Technology), specifically capable to deal with aforementioned threats. The changing operational requirements together with the need to upgrade the system and fully exploit the Aster Block 1 NT capabilities, pushed the two nations to add new fully digital AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars capable to deal with the longer-range air defence missile capabilities.

“The SAMP/T NG is a strategic system that offers an advanced (Anti-Access/Area Denial) capability. The new generation air defence system is a game changer guaranteeing air sovereignty as well as protection of the armed forces and sensitive civil or military sites against all current and future threats including cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, anti-radar missiles, UAVs, helicopters, and aircraft,” highlighted the managing director of Eurosam. “Designed to operate in a civilian air environment, the system is capable of cooperating with friendly military aircraft and has been designed to be fully integrated into a national air defense network and fully interoperable with NATO/Coalition systems. The SAMP/T NG extended engagement capability provides 360° protection capable to simultaneously engaging any combination of air and missile threats further than 150 km,” she continued.

Each SAMP/T NG battery has four main components including one engagement module acting as battery command and control, one multi-function 360° rotating radar, either the Thales Ground Fire 300 or the Leonardo Ground Mobile High Power, up to six launchers capable of carrying eight missiles each for a total of 48 Aster munitions ready to fire. Thanks to the new multi-function radar utilizing AESA arrays based on GaN technology and advanced processing with an air surveillance detection range of over 350 km and the new Aster Block 1 NT version equipped with a new active seeker and missile control enhancements allowing longer range engagements against tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) combined with the advanced engagement module, the SAMP/T NG is capable of +150 km range and the autonomous engagement of TBMs in the class of 600+ km range alongside the tracking capacity of over 1,000 targets.

Managed by a reduced number of personnel and capable to be operational in less than 30 minutes, “the SAMP/T NG is being offered on the international markets, including the Middle East region”, the Eurosam managing director said. In service French and Italian SAMP/Ts are being upgraded to the latest New Generation (NG) version, the latter having been selected also by the Italian Air Force. “The mentioned contract signature between OCCAR and Eurosam regards the upgrading and enhancement of the in-service batteries of the two nations’ armed forces, the Italian Air Force batteries should be procured with a contract expected to be signed this year”.

The OCCAR EA and Eurosam signed already in late last December the contract to produce Aster Block 1 NT, Aster 30 Block 1 and Aster 15 missiles for the French Air Force and Navy, Italian Army and Navy, and the new end-user Italian Air Force.

Photo courtesy L. Peruzzi