Improved Missile and New Radars Form Modernized SAMP/T

Credit: Eurosam

DUBAI—New radars and an improved version of the Aster surface-to-air missile are at the heart of an enhanced version of the Franco-Italian Eurosam SAMP/T ground-based air defense system.

The Eurosam consortium of MBDA and Thales were contracted to develop the SAMP/T NG (New Generation) by the European defense materiel agency OCCAR in March 2021, but details of the upgrade program have only now emerged at the Dubai Airshow. 

At the heart of SAMP/T NG will be the longer-range and more capable two-stage Aster Block 1NT missile, which introduces a new Ka-band radio-frequency seeker and onboard computer as well as improved pyrotechnics. Target detection will be undertaken by one of two multi-function radars: Leonardo’s Kronos Grand High Power sensor or the Thales Ground Fire 300.

The Kronos radar will be used by Italy, while the Thales radar will be used by France. Both sensors are 360-deg.-field-of-view active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars featuring gallium-nitride semiconductor technology.

The upgrades will also make improvements to the system’s engagement module, the manned command-and-control element of the system, adding additional workstations that could enable additional air defense systems to be operated from the same module.

With the new the radar, the range of detection is increased to 350 km (218 mi.), while the missile is now able to engage targets out to a distance of 150 km.

Improvements made to the system will increase its capabilities against a range of aerial targets including drones and ballistic missiles, Eva Bruxmeier, managing director of Eurosam, told journalists Nov. 15 in Dubai.

“The system is able to operate in a congested air environment and non-segregated airspace,” Bruxmeier added.

Work on the Aster Block 1NT missile has been underway since 2015, while sensor work has been underway since 2018. The March 2021 contract called on the Eurosam consortium to integrate, qualify and produce the system. The first upgraded systems are expected to enter service in 2025.

Meanwhile, a trilateral contract between France, Italy and Turkey to study changes to the SAMP/T system to support a Turkish procurement in 2018 have been completed.

Turkey continues to show interest in pursuing development, but officials say the three nations have not reached a final agreement.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.