SAMP-T: European analog of Patriot that can destroy ballistic missiles
The Italian-French SAMP-T air defense system is not as well known among the general public as Patriot. However, it is this system that, like Patriot, can shoot down ballistic missiles, while NASAMS or IRIS-T do not have this capability
Espreso delves into the technical characteristics of the system, its operation principles and advantages over other air defenses.
Briefly about what you'll read:
- What is SAMP-T, and how did Ukraine get it?
- What does SAMP-T consist of?
- Tactical and technical characteristics
- How SAMP-T works
- SAMP-T as an analog of Patriot and other advantages
What is SAMP-T, and how did Ukraine get it?
SAMP-T is a ground-based air defense missile system developed by the European consortium Eurosam. It uses Aster family missiles and is designed to provide air cover for important targets against massive attacks by aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
The basic purpose of the SAMP-T system was initially called air defense of mechanized units on the march. However, during testing and operation, it was realized that the system was extremely effective in countering aircraft, drones, cruise missiles, and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in any weather. The systems were in service in France, Italy, and Singapore.
In October 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Italy to provide the SAMP-T air defense system to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. A few months later, in January 2023, the United States called on Italy to provide Ukraine with the next aid package as soon as possible, including SAMP-T air defense systems. La Repubblica noted at the time that Italy had five operational SAMP-T batteries and one training battery in service.
In February 2023, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced the 6th aid package to Ukraine during a joint press conference with Zelenskyy. The package included, among other things, the SAMP-T air defense system. That same month, the SAMP-T crew immediately went to training in Europe, as reported by the Air Force Command.
Ukraine received the Italian-French air defense system in May 2023, as reported by La Stampa. A month later, French President Emmanuel Macron officially confirmed the use of the SAMP/T system by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
"SAMP-T is one of the best not only air defense, but also missile defense systems available today. Our partners have heard us and are giving us more and more of these systems. We can consider this complex to be universal, as both the Patriot PAC 3 and SAMP-T are capable of hitting both aerodynamic and aeroballistic targets. It can target airplanes, helicopters, and cruise missiles and drones at a distance of up to 150 km. This is quite a long distance," said Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force. He was comparing this system to those available in Ukraine. The S-300 system is capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 75 km, while the BUK M1 is capable of hitting targets at a distance of 40 km.
What does SAMP-T consist of?
The complex includes a radar station, a combat control cabin (FCU) with real-time control system equipment and two display system consoles, self-propelled launchers with launch modules for 8 missiles and Aster-30 missiles in transport and launch containers.
"The weapon is a two-stage Aster-30 missile. The system has a minimum reaction time and a high rate of fire - 8 missiles can be launched in 10 seconds," ArmyInform reports.
Missile guidance has 2 stages. The command-and-control system operates for most of the flight path, and the final section is self-guided using information received from the homing head. The warhead type is high-explosive fragmentation.
The SAMP-T system uses the Thompson-CSF ARABEL multifunctional radar system, which is capable of detecting targets at a distance of up to 80 km. The radar can simultaneously detect up to 130 targets and track a dozen of them at a time. It is possible to integrate or connect a friend-or-foe recognition system.
The Ground Master GM200 multiband radar, which was promised to be delivered to Ukraine, is capable of simultaneously monitoring the air and surface, detecting air targets within a radius of up to 250 kilometers (in combat mode - up to 100 kilometers), the Militarnyi portal writes.
"If Thales' pricing policy hasn't changed much since 2013, when the UAE purchased 17 GM200 radars for USD 396 million, then one radar can cost about USD 23 million. However, this equipment could have risen significantly in price over 10 years," the article says.
The battery consists of a control cabin with radar, 6 launchers at a distance of up to 10 km from the control cabin, and a combat crew of 2 people.
Tactical and technical characteristics
- The range of destruction of aircraft is 3-100 km,
- Ballistic missiles have a strike range of 3-35 km,
- Kill height - 25 km,
- Missile flight speed - average 900-1000 m/s, maximum 1400 m/s,
- The length of the missile is 4.9 meters,
- The launch weight of the missile is 510 kg,
- Warhead weight - 15-20 kg.
How does SAMP-T work?
After the alarm is sounded, the combat control room operators bring the SAM into the combat position. The antenna provides an all-round view, information about the detected targets is displayed on the displays marked "friend" or "foe," and computing tools calculate the target's further movement.
When the target enters the SAMP-T range, operators from the combat control cabin issue commands to the launchers. Information about the target's movement parameters is transmitted to the missile. Each SAMP battery can simultaneously aim 16 missiles at different targets.
"At the combat control center, data on the coordinates and parameters of the target's movement are updated every second and transferred to the missile for guidance. The missile's flight path is formed in such a way as to ensure that the target is captured by the homing head, which is activated on approach to the target. If necessary, the PIF-PAF system is used in the final part of the flight to minimize the miss and cause maximum damage to the target," ArmyInform explains the principles of operation.
The original PIF-PAF system (from the French Pilotage en Force-Pilotage Aerodinamique Fort) is used to increase the maneuverability of the missile. This system uses a special engine - a solid-fuel gas generator with four slotted nozzles inside the wings of the missile. It is activated by a command from the guidance system 1 second before the target is encountered to make the final flight path correction. This significantly increases the probability of a direct hit on the target.
SAMP-T as an analog of Patriot and other advantages
The main feature of the SAMP-T system is that it operates on the same principle as Patriot. It is the Hit-to-Kill principle - the target is destroyed by the interceptor due to the collision energy, which is guaranteed to destroy the warhead of the ballistic missile. By the way, NASAMS does not have the ability to intercept ballistic missiles, although many sources mention them. Thus, Defense Express emphasizes that NASAMS or IRIS-T have not even been tested by developers for such tasks.
The development of the Hit-to-Kill system cost billions, and the United States did not hesitate to allocate these funds after 1991. Iraq actively used R-17 ballistic missiles against the Elbrus complex, which were already outdated in the 1990s. However, the Patriot PAC2 failed to intercept them. After hitting the barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 28 American soldiers were killed and more than a hundred were wounded. In 1992, the Americans admitted that they had managed to intercept less than 50%, not 100%, as declared. At the level of a parliamentary committee, they reported an efficiency of 10%.
It became clear that the ballistic missile needed to be completely destroyed in the air, because if it exploded close to the target, the damage caused by the debris was quite effective. This gave rise to an expensive program to develop Hit-to-Kill kinetic interceptors.
"Despite the fact that from the point of view of logic, this is an attempt to shoot down another bullet, but at much higher oncoming speeds. Because only the energy of the collision can guarantee the destruction of the warhead. The scope and complexity of this work, which resulted in the Patriot PAC3, is hard to imagine, but this is the only means to combat the threat of ballistic missiles. And absolutely similar Hit-to-Kill interception technology is used in the European SAMP-T," Defense Express writes.
Although the systems work on the same principle of destroying ballistic missiles, SAMP-T is a completely digital system and requires only 14 people for a SAM with four launchers. Whereas for Patriot, the number of personnel for a standard fire unit, according to Defense Express, is 90 people. Therefore, it is possible to master SAMP-T faster than Patriot, and the overall digitalization of the European SAM makes it easier to operate.
In addition, SAMP-T can be used closer to the frontline than Patriot, Defense Express editor-in-chief Oleh Katkov emphasized on Espreso.
"The transfer of each such battery, each SAM will be of enormous, astronomical importance for strengthening defense. The SAMP-T system is quite mobile. It is much more compact than Patriot, with fewer maintenance personnel. Objectively, it can be used a little closer to the frontline areas to drive away Russian aviation," the expert noted.