Italy and France pledged to send Ukraine some of their Aster 30/SAMP-T air defense batteries, a European equivalent of the American Patriot. SAMP/T is a land-based version of the original Aster 30 ship-based missile. Aster was inspired by the U.S. Navy SM (standard missile) developed in the 1960s. Aster was developed during the 1990s and entered service in 2001. SAMP/T is French for Surface-to-Air Medium-Range/Land-based (in French it is Sol-Air Moyenne-Portée/Terrestre) and entered service in 2008. European nations were slow to develop their own land-based air-defense systems because, during the cold War, they relied on Patriot’s predecessor, the American HAWK system. European warships used various locally developed systems, as well as the American SM missiles for long range air defense. In the decade before the Cold War ended in 1991, many European defense firms merged with each other or formed consortiums and a French-Italian group formed to develop and use Aster
In 2008 development and testing of the new SAMP/T system was completed. France and Italy were the initial users and were both slow to actually order SAMP/T batteries. Italy finally did so in 2013 and France is now in the midst of doing the same. Ukraine was promised at least one SAMP/T battery and was hoping for two. SAMP/T is in many ways a more capable version of Patriot. Unlike Patriot, SAMP/T has no combat experience. Yet SAMP/T uses the same missiles and radars and similar fire control systems to the Aster systems on European warships. These have been successfully tested against all manner of high-speed anti-ship and ballistic missiles similar to what Russia and China uses. Using SAMP/T in Ukraine would provide the combat experience needed to prove it works and encourage more export sales.
Italy has already sent its training battery to Ukraine for training. This unit has no launchers or missiles. These are being supplied by France and Italy out of their own stocks of equipment. Ukraine soldiers are already in the United States to receive training on using the Patriot batteries Ukraine is receiving.
Using the Aster 30 missile, which already operates on warships in several nations, a SAMP/T battery consists of eight vehicles. One carried the fore control center, another the AESA radar and the other six vehicles each carrying an eight-cell canister for storing and firing the half-ton missiles. Additional trucks carry reload missiles and other equipment. The radar has a range of 100 kilometers. Like the similar U.S. Patriot system, SAMP/T can knock down short range ballistic missiles, and low flying cruise missiles. The system is highly automated, requiring only two crew to operate it. Each launcher can fire all eight of its missiles in ten seconds while the control system can track a hundred targets simultaneously and control sixteen missiles simultaneously. Targets as low as 50 meters (150 feet), or as high as 18 kilometers (60,000 feet) can be detected and hit. The max range of the missiles, at high altitude targets (like incoming ballistic missiles), is 100 kilometers. At low altitude (under 3.1 kilometers/10,000 feet), max range is 50 kilometers. France has ordered twelve batteries of SAMP/T, while Italy has ordered six. The French army and air force are each getting six batteries and will conduct test firings in 2023 with deliveries starting in 2024. In other words, the Ukrainians will have and use SAMP/T in combat before most European SAMP/T crews receive it.