The Department of Defense has been crafting a series of short-range anti-air missile launches for Ukraine for several months, taking old parts or spare units from partner nations around the world. The latest creation is a new surface-to-air missile launcher capable of firing AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles.

The Pentagon calls the ad-hoc air defense program “FrankenSAM.”

The FrankenSAM program has become an important part of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine this year, a way to get needed anti-air defenses to the country as it fights Russia’s invasion, even as the U.S. and its allies send more high-tech arms to Kyiv. The Associated Press first reported on the FrankenSAM program this week, including the existence of the new Sidewinder-firing launcher. More units of the new weapons system are set to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks. 

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The existence of the FrankenSAM program came a day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the U.S. would be sending AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles to Ukraine as part of a $200 million new security package. The heat-seeking missiles are a part of that, although Austin did not say how many would be transferred. 

The exact details on the new weapons system aren’t clear. The Pentagon had been building and providing the FrankenSAMs to Ukraine for several months, the Associated Press reported, but this week’s announcement marks an expansion of the production and fielding of the system.

Although Congress averted a government shutdown before Oct. 1, it did not approve additional funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia. The Department of Defense currently has approximately $5.4 billion available to provide arms and training to Kyiv, according to the Associated Press. 

Per Austin this week, the Ukraine Contact Group, a collection of roughly 50 countries providing defense assistance to Ukraine, has contributed $33 billion in “direct security assistance.”

The FrankenSAM is not the first vaguely horror-themed weapons assistance system the United States has provided Ukraine. Early on in the war, before the United States and its partners were able to get modern heavy artillery and systems such as the High Mobility Advanced Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine, it provided Kyiv with the “VAMPIRE.” The Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment package, with a four-tube missile launcher, could be quickly installed onto a car or truck, turning civilian vehicles into technicals. Ukraine already was converting vehicles into technicals but the VAMPIRE system offered additional firepower, especially when the country was lacking.

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