Italy under pressure to give Ukraine Samp-T air defence system

A Samp-T missile being fired. Photo credit: Italian Army

 ROME – The United States for two months has been pressing Italy and France to provide Ukraine with the advanced Italo-French Samp-T ground to air missile defence system to enhance protection of Kiev and other, diplomatic sources say, but Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government is dragging its feet on making the hi-tech kit available.

 President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan telephoned Meloni’s diplomatic adviser Francesco Talò recently to press Italy to provide one of the Sol-Air Moyenne Portée Terrestre systems to Ukraine to protect against Russian aircraft, drones and cruise missiles, the sources, quoted by Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin first made the request Nov. 7 during a conversation with his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto, following a direct appeal by Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky to his French and Italian opposite numbers during the G-7 meeting held Oct 11.

 Italy made public Oct. 12 its package of arms it was making available to Ukraine but the list did not include the Samp-T. Defence sources say Italy is reluctant to hand over one of the six Samp systems it owns as each one costs 500 million euros to produce and its individual arsenal of Aster 32 missiles costing 2 million euros each takes the total cost of each of the six Samps to some 800 million euros.

 The Samp system was developed by the Eurosam consortium grouping Mbda Italy, Mbda France and Thales, in a joint French Italian FSAF programme at the start of this century to replace the older Hawk missile defence system.

 Samp has high tactical and strategic mobility meaning it can easily be redeployed by aircraft, ship or rail. With a limited range of some 100 km its guidance system allows keeping as many as 130 targets under control simultaneously and to fire up to 10 missiles against as many targets at once.

 Italy’s Samps entererd service in 2013 and they have been deployed both in Italy and in Turkey during Nato’s Active Fence operation from 2016 to 2019 on the border with Syria and in Kuwait.