Ukraine just gave us the first official look at one of its 'FrankenSAMs,' Kyiv's air defense mash-ups of US and Soviet weaponry

Photos of a Buk M-1 launcher identified by Ukrainian media as a "FrankenSAM" were posted by the East Air Command on Monday.
Photos of a Buk M-1 launcher identified by Ukrainian media as a "FrankenSAM" were posted by the East Air Command on Monday.Ukrainian East Air Command
  • Ukraine's East Air Command unveiled photos of a "FrankenSAM," a blend of Soviet and US weapons.

  • The combined air defense systems were announced in October, but this is the first time one was officially revealed.

  • Ukraine and the US have been working on "FrankenSAM" projects to make use of Kyiv's older inventory.

Ukraine on Monday unveiled the first official photos of a "FrankenSAM," a hybrid air defense system that combines Soviet launchers with US missiles.

The East Air Command posted the photos on its Facebook page with an interview of an officer in charge of the defense system.

Two images show a self-propelled Buk-M1 launcher with camouflage netting draped over its top, obscuring parts of the system.

Ukrainian defense news outlets identified the system as a "FrankenSAM" fitted with RIM-7 missiles, noting that the Buk appeared relatively unchanged from the outside, with its original launch and radar dome intact.

Two other photos show debris from destroyed drones, with the interviewed officer saying his crew took out a Lancet drone and an Orlan-10 drone — indicating that the "FrankenSAMs" can be deployed to destroy smaller targets.

Ukraine has been experimenting with US engineers for months on using its existing inventory of Soviet-era Buk systems to fire old RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles supplied by Washington. It's difficult for Kyiv to acquire munitions for its Buk launchers because Russia manufactures them.

And so, the "FrankenSAM" — a portmanteau crossing Frankenstein's monster and surface-to-air missile defense systems — was born, with officials first mentioning the hybrid design in October.

The New York Times reported that Ukraine and the US were also trying to pair AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles with Soviet radar systems and Patriot missiles with Ukrainian-made radar systems.

It's an experimental marriage of systems built separately on opposing sides of the Cold War, but one that appears to be working. The "FrankenSAM" scored its first reported kill in January, when Ukraine said it took out a Shahed drone at 5½ miles.

According to Ukraine's Air Force, the RIM-7 missiles, developed in the 1960s, have a shorter range than the traditional Soviet-made munitions the Buk was designed to fire.

In November, a spokesperson for the force at the time, Yuriy Ignat, told the Ukrainian outlet New Voice that the "FrankenSAM" would be effective in "a small radius."

The RIM-7's range is about 12.5 miles in flat distance and about 9.3 miles in altitude, while the Soviet 9M38 can hit targets about 18 miles away and an altitude of 12 miles.

The official photos of the "FrankenSAM" were posted about three weeks after Russian forces claimed to have destroyed a Ukrainian Buk M-1 with drones in Kharkiv. A video published online appeared to show the Buk with custom-mounted missiles.

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