By Luca Peruzzi
The SAMP/T NG contract signed last March is a further development within the framework of the Sustainment & Enhancements (S&E) Phase of the FSAF-PAAMS which was first launched in late 2015 by the French Ministry of Defence (MoD) and then joined by Italian and United Kingdom MoDs to mainly increase the operational performance of these systems and solve long-term support risks. OCCAR and Eurosam signed in December 2016 the Amendment 1 to the S&E contract, which not only sanctioned the participation of Italy to the development of the Aster 30 Block 1NT (Nouvelle Technologie/New Technology) or B1NT ammunition and the SAMP/T system modernization programme, but also the participation of all three nations in the mid-life refurbishment programme for the life extension of the inventory of Aster 15 and Aster 30 munitions.
The Amendment 1 contract includes the development by MBDA of the new Block 1NT version of the Aster 30 missile and the upgrading of SAMP/T systems currently in service with the French Air Force and the Italian Army allowing them to use the new missile, providing enhanced capabilities, particularly against ballistic missiles. Similarly, the naval version PAAMS(E) system benefited from the initial study that was prepared for the modernization of PAAMS systems, also addressing anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) emerging threats.
To cope with new operational requirements against a range of growing high-speed and challenging threats in congested and electronically contested scenarios, requiring more capable new multifunction radars and command, control, and fire modules alongside upgraded launchers to fully exploit the advanced munition capabilities, in June 2019, the French and Italian MoDs mandated OCCAR-EA to harmonize operational requirements between the two end-users. Notwithstanding the pandemic, thanks to joint efforts between the two MoD’s national armament directorates, Eurosam and its member companies together with the OCCAR-EA team, a full contract agreement was reached in December 2020.
With the contract award, “OCCAR will manage a more than €1.5 billion development and production programme, that foresees the qualification of this system by 2025. In the following years, OCCAR-EA will be subsequently responsible for the In-Service Support phase of SAMP/T NG”, said the same organization. In parallel, respectively in January 2020 and June 2021, OCCAR on behalf of respectively France, Italy and the UK, awarded the Eurosam consortium the contract for the mid-life refurbishment of the Aster 15/30 family munition in service with the three nations.
The current and new generation air defence system
The SAMP/T NG is a key evolution of the French-Italian SAMP/T air-defence system to face future threats, such as tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft, that will become more rapid, furtive and manoeuvrable. For this purpose, the SAMP/T NG will be based on new multifunction fire control radars, respectively the Thales Ground Fire 300 (GF 300) and the Leonardo Kronos Grand Mobile High Power (Kronos GM HP), combined with an innovative engagement module taking into account operational feedbacks from the French Air Force and the Italian Army, said OCCAR, adding that this new system will be able to detect, identify, track and engage, in a complex jammed airspace, an increasing number of threats with a higher accuracy. The SAMP/T NG will also implement a further development of the ASTER 30 B1NT, known as “Enhanced Capability” (EC), that will provide increased range and improved effectiveness, confirming what the organization’s director told EDR On-Line in a previous exclusive interview.
Today, SAMP/T systems in service with the French Air Force and the Italian Army share a common battery configuration, which differs only for the command post of the Italian Army (MC, for Command Module), which manages the battery and maintains higher-echelons link. The SAMP/T battery has three main components or so-called modules: the engagement module (ME) which ensures the tactical control and fire control of the battery, the multi-function radar & IFF module (MRI) based on the Thales Arabel 90 radar (sided by the electric-generation module or MGE), and launcher modules (MLT) with eight missiles each. The French system, also known as Mamba, and the Italian one, have the capability to manage up to six launcher modules. Battery elements are interconnected via fibre-optic or/and radio links, depending on tactical deployment. Both services’ systems also include two launchers reloading modules (MRT) as well as logistic support and maintenance modules. The French and Italian modules are respectively transported on Renault-Kerax and Iveco/Astra 8×8 high-mobility trucks. According to released information by both Eurosam consortium and customers, today the SAMP/T offers a 360° and full zenith coverage and protection of vital areas and mobile assets against both Air Breathing Targets (ABTs) and Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBMs), with a surveillance capability beyond 100 km against aircraft and up to 35 km versus missiles. According to Eurosam, the system will be able to defend areas well over 15,000 km2 at effective altitude well over 20,000 meters (vertical) and distance well over 50 km (horizontal). The SAMP/T demonstrated the capability to engage and neutralize TBM targets with a 600 km range, proving its ability to work with NATO BMD C2 System.