The Italian Air Force will procure SAMP/T NG surface-to-air missile systems from Eurosam, an industrial Franco-Italian consortium comprising MBDA and Thales, as the system’s prime contractor.

This deal adds to the SAMP/T NG production ordered under the Sustainment and Enhancement (S&E) contract in January this year for the Italian Army and French Air and Space Forces.

Europe’s Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR), which is responsible for the through-life management of co-operative defence systems among various European countries, has amended the S&E contract to include the Italian Air Force as Eurosam’s latest user.

The French and Italian armaments directorates alongside Italian Air Force officials were present at the signing, which marks the latter armed force joining as a new next-gen surface-to-air missile system user, following the Italian Army and Navy, the French Navy and Air and Space Force as well as the UK Royal Navy.

SAMP/T NG is a co-operative anti-air missile system. Eurosam enhanced the current variant from the original SAMP/T. The original has been in service across Europe and the Middle East since 2010.

The Italian Air Force’s variant has a 360-degree new multifunction rotating Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar: the Kronos Grand Mobile High Power from Leonardo and the Ground Fire 300 from Thales for France.

European consumer base

While GlobalData projects steady growth in spending on the SAMP/T NG – which the company forecast to increase from $340m (€302m) to $720m (€641m) between 2023-28 – the Iris-T SLM is giving Eurosam a run for its money as Europe seeks to adopt the most advanced air defence systems out there.

The Iris-T surface-to-air medium-range missile (SLM) is an air defence system designed and developed by Diehel Defence in 2022, and it is growing in popularity across the continent this year.

At the end of April 2023, the German Bundeswehr donated the system to Ukraine; the second of four systems to be donated to the country amid a costly war of attrition. While recently, Estonia and Latvia entered into negotiations with the original equipment manufacturer to jointly procure the system.

Like the SAMP/T NG, Iris-T provides 360 degree protection. This mobility increases responsiveness; a much-needed ability when facing advanced capabilities as Ukraine had with a Russian hypersonic missile earlier this month. It enables simultaneous engagement of multiple targets. It operates at short to medium ranges (distances of 40km) within extremely brief reaction times (reaching Mach 3).

GlobalData forecast a growth in global spending on the Iris-T SLM system from $165m to $505m over the next decade.

Despite the growing use of the Iris-T across Europe, particularly across Nato’s eastern flank, the Italian Air Force’s adoption of the SAMP/T NG still shows the commitment to the Franco-Italian system. Nonetheless, we can expect future procurement to dwindle outside the national interests of Eurosam nations such as the armed forces of France, Italy and since 1996, the UK Royal Navy.