France, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia and Hungary have signed a letter of intent to jointly purchase the French “Mistral” air defence systems, Reuters reports, citing sources familiar with the matter.
French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed that France, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary and Cyprus will jointly purchase “Mistral” short-range surface-to-air missile systems, calling it a good example of cooperation.
The deal is a sign that France is making progress in persuading some of its European allies to show interest in their own European-made systems, rather than those outside Europe, as recommended by Germany under its so-called “European Sky Shield Initiative”.
The agency sources said the letter was signed at the start of a meeting of defense ministers in Paris aimed at coordinating European efforts to improve air defense capabilities across the continent after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Germany alarmed France last October when it announced a plan with 14 NATO allies to buy anti-aircraft systems, which are partly from the US and Israel, in a bid to protect the allies’ territory from missile attacks after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since then, some 17 countries, including the Baltic states, Britain and several Eastern European powers that have traditionally looked to the United States for military hardware, have already joined.
Emmanuel Macron also said that a medium-range SAMP/T air defense system had been delivered to Ukraine, AFP reported.
The system, which is jointly produced by France and Italy, has been delivered to Ukraine, where it is now operational, Macron said, four months after he promised Kyiv the delivery of the system, considered the equivalent of America’s Patriots.
Macron stressed that the Franco-Italian SAMP/T system protects key facilities and human lives in Ukraine.
SAMP/T, also known as MAMBA, is Europe’s first longer-range anti-missile system and will help Ukraine defend itself against attacks by Russian drones, missiles and aircraft.
With this system, with its radar and its launchers equipped with Aster missiles with a range of about 100 kilometers, a range of air threats can be repelled – short-range ballistic missiles, fighter jets, helicopters, drones, cruise missile salvos.
A similar MAMBA system has already been deployed to Romania to protect the highly strategic area of the Black Sea port of Constanta.
Macron said earlier that Belgium would join the program to create a future European combat aircraft, the so-called “Future Combat Air System”, being developed by France, Germany and Spain. In the project, Belgium will have observer status at this stage.