Italy, France finalize MAMBA air defense system delivery to Ukraine

SIRPA Air

Italy and France are finalizing the delivery of the SAMP/T [also called MAMBA – ed. note] anti-air system to Ukraine.  

The information was confirmed by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani in an interview with the local media outlet Corriere della Sera on January 22, 2023. 

The system is highly anticipated by the Ukrainian authorities and armed forces, who see the MAMBA as one of the only systems capable of intercepting the Kh-22 anti-ship missiles used by Russia to target civilian infrastructures. One of these missiles, armed with a 1-ton warhead, killed at least 45 people in Dnipro, central Ukraine, on January 13, 2023. 

“Since the beginning of Russian military aggression against Ukraine, more than 210 such missiles have been launched; none of them were intercepted by air defense equipment,” said Lieutenant General Nikolai Oleshuk, Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, at the time. “Only anti-aircraft missile systems, which in the future may be provided to Ukraine by Western partners (systems such as the Patriot PAC-3 or the SAMP-T), are capable of intercepting these air targets.”  

A long-awaited contribution to Ukraine’s air defense 

Developed as part of a collaboration between France and Italy, the MAMBA system can track 100 trajectories and engage 10 of them simultaneously, with up to 48 missiles ready to fire. It is the only European system designed to counter ballistic missiles. The Aster 30 missile it employs, developed by MBDA, can hit aircraft up to 120 kilometers away and ballistic missiles at 30 kilometers.   

In December 2022, the governments of France and Italy agreed to provide a SAMP/T system. The training of Ukrainian operators started taking place in January 2023. 

Italian soldiers reloading a SAMP/T system – Credit: Italian Army

An ASTER 30 SAMP/T system comprises one command and control system connected to a multi-function Arabel radar, and up to six vertical launchers each fitted with eight ASTER 30 missiles. France and Italy reportedly collaborated to provide a full system. 

In service since 2010 with the French and Italian armed forces, the system is available in rather limited quantities. The 1st Air Artillery Regiment of the French Air and Space Force reported operating eight MAMBA systems in 2022. The 4th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment of the Italian Army has four operational batteries, and one for training purposes. 

The MAMBA is not France’s first contribution to Ukraine’s air defense. On October 12, 2022, French President Emmanual Macron announced that two Crotale NG systems were delivered. Older and with a more limited range than the SAMP/T, the Crotale NG can simultaneously track up to 12 targets at a distance of 18 kilometers and engage them within 11 kilometers with one of its eight VT1 missiles.  

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