France, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia and Hungary have signed a letter of intent to jointly purchase French “Mistral” air defense systems, according to sources familiar with the matter.

French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed that these countries will jointly purchase the “Mistral” short-range surface-to-air missile systems, calling it a good example of cooperation. The deal is a sign of France’s success in convincing some of its European allies to consider Made in Europe systems.

The agreement is a sign that France is making progress in persuading some of its European allies to show interest in systems made in Europe, rather than those outside Europe, as Germany has advocated in the framework of its call.” European Sky Shield Initiative’.

France has been promoting its own systems as more reliable, interoperable and sovereign than those offered by non-European providers.

The agency sources said the letter had been 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, partly from the US and Israel, in a bid to protect the allies’ territory from missile attacks after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The plan dubbed the European Sky Shield, included systems like the US’s Patriot, MEADS, and Israel’s Iron Dome.

Since then, some 17 countries have already joined, including the Baltic states, Britain and several Eastern European powers that have traditionally sought US military equipment.

France has been trying to persuade other European countries to join its initiative, the European Air Defense System (EADS), which would be based on French-made systems such as the SAMP/T medium-range missile system and the Short-range mistral. -range missile system. France argues that its systems are more compatible with each other and with NATO standards and would enhance Europe’s strategic autonomy and industrial base.

The system, which France and Italy jointly produce, has been delivered to Ukraine, where it is now operational, Macron said, four months after he promised Kyiv 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 long-range anti-missile system and will help Ukraine defend against attacks by Russian planes, missiles and drones.

With this system, with its radar and launchers equipped with Aster missiles with a range of about 100 kilometers, a variety of air threats can be repelled: short-range ballistic missiles, fighter jets, helicopters, drones, and cruise missiles.

A similar MAMBA system has already been implemented in Romania to protect the highly strategic area of ​​the Constanta port on the Black Sea.

Macron said earlier that Belgium’s request to join the future European fighter jet program, the so-called “Combat Air System of the Future,” which is being developed by France, Germany and Spain, was also being considered. In the project, Belgium would have observer status at this stage.

Via Reuters