December 14, 2017


Italy is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Italy participates in the development of MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System), a cooperative effort with the USA and Germany. The system is intended to provide protection of military forces against SRBMs, cruise missiles and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The project, however, stalled after the U.S. pulled its funding in 2012.[i] The withdrawal of U.S. funding drew criticism from both Italy and Germany.

In 2012, Russian diplomats attempted unsuccessfully to sway Italy not to participate in the development of a NATO missile defense shield.[ii] Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola said the Italian views on missile defense did not “correspond” to the Russian position, and reasserted Italy’s support of European missile defense plans.

In October of 2012, Italy conducted a successful test of its TPS-77 radar. According to a NATO press release, the “Italian TPS-77, as a BMD sensor, is able to contribute to NATO’s ballistic missile defense situational awareness.”[iii]

During the NATO exercise, Formidable Shield, Italian ships, simultaneously with ships from France and Spain, tracked a short-range ballistic missile target during a simulated engagement, conducting all steps of a routine engagement.[iv]

Ballistic Missile Defense Capabilities in Italy

System Operator Number Deployed Platform
SAMP/T Air and Missile Defense System Italy Five batteries Ground-based; road mobile  
Principle Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) Italy Two Horizon-class frigates
S1850M Radar (Derivative of SMART-L) Italy Two Horizon-class frigates  
European Multifunction Phased Array Radar (EMPAR) Italy Two Horizon-class frigates  

Italy currently has five Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain (SAMP/T) Theatre BMD Systems, Spada 2000 air defense system,

Italy’s Thales S 1850M long-range radar, along with its European Multifunction Phased Array Radar (EMPAR) can track 24 missiles against 12 targets simultaneously. Italy also fields the TPS-77 radar, another system that has been integrated into the European missile defense shield.

Air Defense Capabilities in Italy

System Role Number Deployed Platform
Spada 2000  Short-range air defense  Four batteries Ground-based; road mobile  
AN/TPS-77 Radar Long-range air defense radar Unknown Ground-based  

Current Developments

In March 2013, the Italian army participated in a successful test of the SAMP-T missile defense system developed by MBDA.[v] In the test, an Aster 30B1 intercepted an Israeli made Black Sparrow test-missile. Italy cooperated with the French Air Force on the operation.

According to a French defense source in September 2017, Italy and France were undertaking a detailed study on the architecture of a concept Franco-Italian anti-missile frigate and exploring the idea of a European combat management system.[vi]

Most recently, France, Turkey, and Italy have signed a letter of intent to strengthen cooperation of joint defense projects including air and missile defense systems.[vii] The Franco-Italian EUROSAM consortium and Turkish companies will look into a system based on the SAMP-T missile system produced by EUROSAM and determine the common needs of all three countries.

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International Cooperation