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Ukraine’s Use of ‘FrankenSAM’ Weapons Exposes Gaps in NATO Arsenal, Says Military Expert

Ukraine’s deployment of experimental “FrankenSAM” defense systems has drawn attention to significant deficiencies in NATO’s defense capabilities, particularly its ground-based air defenses, as noted by a military expert.

These unconventional weapons, combining elements from various systems to target missiles, drones, and aircraft, have not only filled a crucial void for Ukraine but also underscored the need for stronger air defense systems within the alliance.

A Novel Approach to Defense

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The term “FrankenSAM” is derived from a blend of Frankenstein’s monster and the acronym for surface-to-air missiles.

These systems, jointly produced by the US and Ukraine, involve the fusion of different components to create innovative weapons capable of countering aerial threats.

American AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles Used

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Notably, they adapt American AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, typically air-launched, for ground-based firing.

NATO’s Air Defense Gap

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Military expert Mark Cancian, a retired US Marine Corps colonel and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, emphasizes that “FrankenSAMs” address a critical gap in air defense capabilities, particularly for Ukraine.

Shortage of Ground Based Air Defenses

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He highlights the shortage of ground-based air defenses in NATO member countries, including the US.

Ukraine’s Urgent Need

MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE JULY 21, 2016: Ukrainian army participate in Sea Breeze 2016 international trainings. During trainings soldiers completed aircraft missions as well as ground operations — Photo by ReportageUkraine

Amid ongoing Russian drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities and towns, the need for ground-based air defenses in Ukraine is dire.

Necessity For NATO To Have Such Weapons

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Cancian underscores that Russia’s current tactics underscore the necessity for NATO to possess such weaponry to prepare for future conflicts.

Post-Cold War Shift

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Cancian explains that NATO countries, including the US, shifted their focus away from strong ground-based air defenses after the Cold War.

Air Defense Ignored

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Instead, they perceived their primary adversaries as nations like North Korea and Iraq, which did not necessitate robust air defenses.

Changing Threat Landscape

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The geopolitical landscape shifted in 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and increased Chinese assertiveness.

Recognizing the potential for conflicts with major powers, NATO nations, including the US, reoriented their strategies to prioritize ground-based defenses.

Delayed Realization

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Cancian characterizes this shift as occurring “probably belatedly.” While new defense systems were adopted, they have not yet been deployed to combat zones, providing little assistance to Ukraine, which urgently requires enhanced air defenses.

Ukraine’s Accomplishments

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Despite limited resources, Ukraine has successfully intercepted numerous Russian attacks using its available air defense systems.

These efforts have compelled Russian aircraft to maintain considerable distance from the conflict’s front lines.

Learning from Ukraine

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Cancian asserts that Ukraine’s experiences offer valuable insights into countering powerful air forces like Russia’s.

It underscores the necessity for NATO to bolster its air defense capabilities to address evolving threats effectively.

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