The Italian Army is considering enhancing the capability of its new Aster surface-to-air missile platform/terrain (SAMP/T) against tactical ballistic missiles, which are yet to enter into operational service.
An undisclosed Italian industrial source told DefenseNews that the Italian Air Force was currently tasked with high-altitude missile defence, while the Army took care of medium altitude and the navy after fleet protection.
However, with NATO‘s new strategy seeking ballistic missile defence for cities, the source said: "In Italy, it looks like the army is taking the initiative."
The French Air Force had tested the vertically launched Aster 30 missile using the Black Sparrow decoy target in 2010 and 2011 to demonstrate its anti-ballistic capability at the Biscarossa range in France.
Italian Army 4th Air Defense Regiment commander colonel Carlo Zantilli was quoted by the news agency as saying: "It is the only capability of this kind that Italy has, and we would like to be involved in Nato’s ballistic missile defence programme, as do the French."
Italian Army commanders plan to display the system’s anti-ballistic missile capability in March 2013.
Built by MBDA to help counter aircraft and cruise missiles, the new missile-based air defence capability will be deployed with the army’s regiment by the end of 2012 and is expected to reach full operating capability towards late 2013.
Five SAMP/T batteries are being acquired for the regiment, with two of which having already been delivered and the remaining three scheduled to be handed over in 2013.
Italy has also placed an order for one training version of the system that will be based at Sabaudia, south of Rome.