The U.S. officially announced it would provide Ukraine with the advanced Patriot Air Defense System to help counter Moscow's aerial attacks. Accordingly, the Ukrainian sky will be defended by U.S. Patriot systems and French-Italian SAMP-T (Mamba) Air Defense System. Let’s take a closer look at the latter and how it compares with the Patriot.
Mamba SAMP-T is a modern medium-range missile defense complex designed for protecting battlefield personnel and equipment from all manner of air strikes. It is produced by the European air defense missile manufacturer Eurosam.
The French and Italian governments have approved the supply of Mamba complexes to Ukraine. These complexes were commissioned to operate in both countries in 2011. Their principal role is the defense of deployed military units and critically important facilities. In France, they protect air bases and are capable of destroying aircraft as well as cruise, antiradar and other missiles.
Most importantly, they can successfully shoot down tactical ballistic missiles at ranges between 15 and 35 kilometers, and could be of great help to Ukraine, especially considering possible supplies of Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia.
France and Italy first tested a Mamba complex during NATO exercises in the spring of 2013. It coped perfectly well: its Aster 30 missile intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile launched from an aircraft.
The Aster 30 is a new version of the air-to-air missile MICA comprehensively modified for ground launching.
Its nominal air target interception range is 120 kilometers, but the effective range against stealth and low-flying targets is shorter.
The modernized version Aster 30 Block 1 can also destroy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other small targets. Its high-explosive fragmentation warhead explodes at maximum proximity to the target, unlike a Patriot inexplosive missile which directly hits the target in the air.
Advantages over the Patriot
The SAMP-T Mamba complex is a fully computerized system which has a radar and four launchers operated by 14 personnel. The Patriot complex requires around 90 personnel.
This means less time and effort are needed to train personnel for the Mamba than the Patriot, while general computerization and automation of European air defense systems makes their use and maintenance much easier.
One more advantage is that a Mamba complex can fire at up to 16 targets at a time while a Patriot can lock eight. The Mamba missile is aimed at the target in two stages: it is firstly guided by a radio signal covering the longest part of the distance, then its self-homing warhead locks on to the target. Importantly, it is possible to detect and lock enemy missiles after they are launched.
The modernized missile has improved flight characteristics and the control systems use the most advanced hardware and software with upgraded target locking and detonation time algorithms.
Besides, the key characteristics of the SAMP/T surpass those of the Patriot: one Patriot launcher has four missiles while one SAMP/T launcher has eight, which makes it twice more efficient, plus the Aster 30 missile can be launched in any direction.
The Mamba is undoubtedly the best antiaircraft/antimissile complex in the arsenals of France and Italy. Even a small number of these complexes would definitely increase Ukraine's air defense capabilities and protection from Russian cruise and ballistic missile strikes.
France and Italy have a total of 60 such complexes, 40 and 20 respectively.
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