Rome is apparently preparing for the sixth delivery of weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February.
An Italian newspaper has reported that Rome intends to provide air defense gear to Ukraine, including the SAMP/T system, despite reservations about education and resources. MBDA conducted a test firing of the SAMP/T air defense system in 2015.
Furthermore, Stinger surface-to-air missiles, mortars, and Milan or Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons were reportedly included in previous shipments, as well as Browning heavy machine guns, MG-type light machine guns, and devices for countering improvised explosive devices. Multiple-launch rocket systems, PzH 2000 howitzers, and vehicles are among the items reportedly sent by Italy over the course of the year.
Kyiv has asked for more air defense systems after it emerged that Russia was using Iranian-made drones to destroy key infrastructure in Ukrainian cities. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had specifically requested air defense equipment manufactured in Italy.
According to increased speculation after that interview, SAMP/T batteries, built by Italy and France, could be heading to the battlefront.
According to Alessandro Marrone, head of defense programs at Rome-based think tank IAI, Italy has classified the arms it sends to Ukraine, but rumors suggest that the next package will include air defense and missile defense as Ukraine gains ground but must defend its cities from drones.
SAMP/T is a truck-based tactical anti-missile system introduced to the Italian Army in 2013 and is used to defend against manned and unmanned aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles.
A NATO operation in 2016 to protect the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras from Syrian missile attacks included sending an Italian battery.
Defence News reported that the SAMP/T is problematic in two respects.
According to an anonymous analyst, the reason Italy cannot send a large number of batteries is that the system is complicated and would require a lot of instruction.
Italy’s military has five batteries currently in service, according to the Italian Army. It is, therefore, more likely that the country will provide its older and more plentiful Skyguard-Aspide air defense missile system, built by MBDA Italy and Germany’s Rheinmetall.
The government of former Prime Minister Mario Draghi authorized the first arms deliveries to Ukraine in 2013. He was replaced last month by hard-right leader Giorgia Meloni. Meloni leads a coalition with League party leader Matteo Salvini and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, both polarizing figures.
Meloni’s coalition, which includes Berlusconi and Salvini’s parties, has raised fears that the flow of weapons to Ukraine might be halted, as both men have been strong supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past and backed his annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Meloni has repeatedly assured Kyiv of continued weapon flow, despite the fact that she knows it is mostly unattainable. However, she faces a big group of voters who are against arming the rebels.
The leader of the Five Star party, Giuseppe Conte, has asked the government to hold a debate on the next shipment in Parliament.
According to Marrone, Italy is one of the few nations that keeps the list confidential. However, the inner circle of NATO knows what is being sent, and the foreign policy, defense, and NATO communities do not have official data.
However, it could boost Italy’s profile in NATO if it declassified its donations.