Sunday, June 23, 2024

As winter approaches, Ukrainian officials are in urgent need of increased air defenses to protect their power grids from potential Russian strikes that could leave the country in darkness. To address this issue, they are willing to experiment with a large-scale weapons system called the FrankenSAM, which originated in Ukraine and is now being pursued by the Pentagon. The FrankenSAM program combines advanced Western surface-to-air missiles with Soviet-era launchers and radars that Ukraine already possesses. Two types of improvised air defenses have been tested in the United States and will be delivered to Ukraine in the coming months. In addition, the Cold War-era Hawk missile system was recently displayed on the Ukrainian battlefield. The FrankenSAMs are essential in filling critical gaps in Ukraine’s air defenses, according to Laura K. Cooper, a senior U.S. defense official.
The concept of combining various offensive weapons from different sources has been successful for Ukraine, which has utilized this strategy throughout the war. The FrankenSAM project aims to do the same for Ukraine’s air defenses. The West has supplied Ukraine with a range of air defenses, including state-of-the-art systems, tanks, and shoulder-fired missiles, among others, since Russia’s invasion in 2022. Germany recently announced its intention to provide Ukraine with additional air defense systems as part of a winter aid package. Ukraine has already received significant military aid, with the United States considering providing an additional $60 billion.
The origins of the FrankenSAM program date back to last year when Ukrainian officials sought help in finding missiles for their Soviet-era Buk launchers and radars. Understanding the challenges of obtaining Russian-made munitions, Ukraine proposed refitting the launchers with NATO-caliber missiles donated by the United States. While Ukraine offered to handle the modifications themselves, American engineers insisted on conducting the work, causing delays in the project’s completion. The Hawk systems pledged by Spain also experienced delays due to missing radar equipment. However, as of Monday night, the Hawk systems were fully operational. Another improvised ground launcher using Soviet-era radars and American missiles has been revealed alongside a security assistance package. This ground launcher incorporates older American Sidewinder missiles, and its arrival in Ukraine is yet to be determined. Finally, the most powerful FrankenSAM, which utilizes a Patriot missile and launching station with Ukraine’s older radar systems, is currently being tested and is expected to be sent to Ukraine this winter. The integration of Soviet-era equipment with advanced Western missiles serves as a practical and innovative solution to maintain Ukraine’s arsenal during the ongoing conflict.

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