SAMP/T Mamba vs Patriot PAC-3 in Saudi Arabia? It is indeed possible…

Until March 21, 2024, the SAMP/T Mamba and PAAMS anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic systems, and the Aster family anti-aircraft missiles, were considered, most often, on the international scene, as secondary players.

If MBDA's Aster 15 and 30 equip more than forty surface ships, and 23 land-based ground-air batteries, in around ten countries, the system is far from overshadowing the American Patriot, of which more than 280 batteries were purchased by around twenty countries, while the SM-2 and the naval ESSM also equip the ships of around twenty Marines.

These systems could rely on the aura of efficiency surrounding American equipment, but also on the famous “Combat proven”, which plays a determining role in the acquisition of defense equipment on the international scene. Conversely, the Aster missile and the Mamba and PAAMS systems, although they had shown excellent performance during tests and exercises, were uncommitted.

The Mamba battery sent by Rome and Paris to Ukraine, and the use of Aster by British, French and Italian destroyers and frigates, against Houthi drones and cruise missiles, have, for several months, restored the image of these systems , these having shown excellent efficiency, having nothing to envy of that of American equipment.

But it is undoubtedly the successful interception, on March 21, of three Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles, by the French frigate Alsace, which transformed, in a few hours, the image of the French missile and related systems on the international scene. In a few minutes, the Aster had joined the Patriot in the field of combat-proven anti-ballistic systems.

New anti-ballistic success of the Aster 30 and Red Sea missile by the British destroyer HMS Diamond

Since then, the Aster 30 missile has confirmed that the successful interception of the three Houthi ballistic missiles by Alsace was neither fortuitous nor even lucky. Indeed, on April 24, the British destroyer HMS Diamond, one of the 6 Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyers of the Daring class, close to the French and Italian Horizon frigates, carried out the interception of two more Houthi ballistic missiles.

Type 45 Sea Viper e1622818312390 Anti-aircraft defense | Defense News | Saudi Arabia
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Houthi missiles targeted the MV Yorktown, an American-flagged ship, with 18 crew members of American nationality, and four of Greek nationality, on board.

HMS Diamond used its Sea Viper system, the British designation for PAAMS (Principal Anti Air Missile System), to successfully intercept the two Houthi ballistic missiles, each following a differentiated and simultaneous attack trajectory.

A few minutes later, the Sea Viper, along with the British destroyer's 30mm guns and Phalanx system, were again used to counter an attack by four Houthi drones against the same target.

This is undoubtedly another important success for the European surface-air system, and for the Aster 30 missile, especially since this is not, a priori, the version intended for ballistic interception.

Moreover, the British Type 45 destroyers must soon evolve to receive this extended anti-ballistic capability through the Aster Block 1 missile, then, in the future, the Block 1NT, designed to intercept missiles with a range of 1 km .

Saudi Arabia would seek a European alternative to the Patriot system, considered too expensive

Regardless of this success, Riyadh would have recently undertaken to initiate certain consultations with European manufacturers, to acquire new air defense systems. It is in any case what the site thinks it knows, it is true that they are often well informed on this type of subject.

Patriot PAC 3 e1684245912115 Anti-aircraft defense | Defense News | Saudi Arabia
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According to the site, the Saudi authorities are seeking to densify their anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense solutions. The European solution would be favored over the extension of the Patriot park, the latter being considered too expensive to be sufficiently extended to protect Saudi territory.

There are only four medium-range anti-aircraft systems in Europe, which could possibly constitute an alternative to the Patriot against planes, helicopters and cruise missiles. These are the German IRIS-T SLM, the British CAMM-ER, the Norwegian NASAMS, and the Franco-Italian SAMP/T Mamba.

However, only the latter actually offers long-range capabilities, beyond 120 km, and anti-ballistic capabilities, such as the Patriot PAC-2, in service with the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces. In addition, a Mamba battery, its launchers, and its radar are sold, according to public data, for around €150 to €180 million, while the Aster 30 is sold for €1,4 million.

In other words, a complete battery with 6 launchers, 6 reloading systems, the command post and the Thales Ground Fire 300 radar, as well as 160 to 180 Aster 30 and Block 1NT missiles, should be offered for export around from €400 to €450 million, half as much as an equivalent Patriot PAC-3 battery.

The Aster missile already equips the Saudi frigates of the Al Riyadh class

In fact, based on the information relayed by, and the public data available, it appears probable that the anti-aircraft system considered by Riyadh, to complete its anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic defense, would therefore be the Mamba SAMP/T.

al riyadh class frigate f3000s sawari ii photo in publ Anti-aircraft defense | Defense News | Saudi Arabia
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This hypothesis is all the more likely as relations between France and Saudi Arabia have significantly improved in recent months, to the point that the request made by Riyadh for 54 aircraft Rafale, for the Saudi air forces, still seem to hold the rope in the current negotiations, even though Berlin has lifted its export ban on the Eurofighter Typhoon, already in service in the country.

In this regard, it should be remembered that the armed forces are already implementing the Aster missile. This equips, in fact, the three Al Riyadh class frigates of the Royal Saudi Navy.

Entered into service from 2002 to 2004, these 133-meter, 4-ton frigates, derived from the French FLF La Fayette, carry, in fact, 700 Aster 16 missiles each, in individual vertical containers. The Al Riyadh frigates are, today, the most powerfully armed ships in the Saudi fleet.

A real, but narrow, opportunity to put the SAMP/T Mamba back at the heart of the global market for anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic systems

The Saudi consultation represents, without the slightest doubt, an opportunity for MBDA and Eurosam to put the SAMP/T Mamba, as well as the Aster missile, back at the center of the global technological and commercial scene in terms of anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic defense.

Mamba Aster30 e1648559163452 Anti-aircraft defense | Defense News | Saudi Arabia
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Indeed, a significant Saudi order for Mamba and Aster, what's more, with an anti-ballistic function, would make it possible to complete the commercial discourse, creating a new major recent reference, with Singapore, while the system can now rely on recognized operational efficiency, and that it has the price advantage over American systems.

However, the window of opportunity for MBDA and Eurosam could be particularly reduced. Indeed, beyond the United States, other players have launched into the same segment as the Patriot and the Mamba.

This is particularly the case of the Israeli David Sling system, offering performances close to those of the two previous systems, and which can also rely on recognized combat effectiveness, because it is integrated into the multilayer anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense of the Hebrew State. Finland has already been seduced by this system.

The South Korean KM-SAM is also an important competitor, even if it operates more in the Aster 15 EC category, with a range of 60 km. Note that in February 2024, Riyadh signed a letter of intent with Seoul for the acquisition of 10 KM-SAM batteries.

Davids sling rafael e1680786414671 Anti-aircraft defense | Defense News | Saudi Arabia
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This, however, reinforces the hypothesis that the discussions initiated with European manufacturers concern systems with a longer range, and anti-ballistic capacity, with which only the Mamba is equipped on the old continent.

In Europe, Germany is developing a long-range version of its IRIS-T, called IRIS-T SLX, with the ambition of playing in the same category as the Aster and the Patriot PAC-3.

Finally, nothing prevents Saudi Arabia from turning again to China, as it has already done for the MALE Wing Loong drones, the PLZ-45 self-propelled guns, and the DF-3 and DF-ballistic missiles. 21, acquired from Beijing in recent decades.

In this area, Chinese manufacturers offer export versions of the HQ-9, called FD-2000, already exported to Morocco and Algeria (among others), and its anti-ballistic version HQ-19, supposed to be equivalent to the THAAD.


As we can see, the confidences obtained by, if they prove to be founded, would reveal a real opportunity to get SAMP/T Mamba out of the international commercial rut in which this excellent Franco-Italian system has found itself, for more than ten years now.

SAMP T x1200 e1606832577536 Anti-aircraft defense | Defense News | Saudi Arabia
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Indeed, beyond the need expressed by the Saudi authorities, the European system can today rely on a particularly favorable context, combining competitive prices with significant operational successes, including in the very complex anti-ballistic field.

The fact remains that the window of opportunity for Mamba also appears very narrow, to effectively create sufficient favorable dynamics, and relaunch the system's career on the international scene. Indeed, several systems, also competitive, and sometimes crowned with the same operational success, have arrived, or will soon arrive, on this market.

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  1. Not to mention that the Patriot is known for its blah targeting which requires throwing two missiles per interception……
    We saw that on the mamba it's OS (moreover respect to Alsace for having thrown 3 aster on 3's still stupid and there's no time if it screws's express the confidence they have in the aster 30)

  2. Hopefully the route of the mamba and the aster is the same as the Rafale, except that our US friends, helped by the Germans (conditions of the European shield project) do not allow it, let us hope…..


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