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Ukrainian Defence Forces received modernized Buk-M1 air defense systems

Ukrainian Defence Forces received modernized Buk-M1 air defense systems

Air Defense Modernization SAM Ukraine USA

The Ukrainian military received modernized Buk-M1 anti-aircraft systems with integrated Sea Sparrow missiles.

The press service of the Air Command East released the photo of the equipment.

The photos capture the service of anti-aircraft gunners next to a 9A310M1 self-propelled launcher and a 9A39 launcher of the Buk-M1 system.

The upgraded systems were equipped with compact launch containers for RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles, hidden by camouflage nets in the photo.

The layout of the missile launch containers on the system’s munitions is unknown, but the self-propelled launchers can carry up to four missiles. Presumably, the process of loading them takes place with the help of a vehicle with a crane.

Модернізована пуско-заряджальна установка 9А39 комплексу "Бук-М1" з ракетами Sea Sparrow, травень 2024 року. Фото: Повітряне командування "Схід".

Modernization project

The decision to integrate somewhat outdated Western RIM-7 anti-aircraft missiles into the Soviet Buk-M1 systems was made by the Ukrainian military due to the depletion of stocks of original 9M38 anti-aircraft missiles.

The project to modernize the systems was developed jointly by American and Ukrainian engineers and first implemented in metal in the United States last November. At the same time, they underwent their first successful tests at one of the American training grounds.

According to Yuriy Ihnat, the Air Force spokesman at the time, this modernization limited the system’s potential due to the missiles’ lower performance.

“They [protect], albeit at a small radius. Sea Sparrow missiles will be able to help protect critical infrastructure facilities in the first place,” Ihnat emphasized.

Indeed, the RIM-7 has much more modest capabilities: the missile is capable of hitting air targets at a distance of up to 20,000 meters and up to 15,000 meters in altitude. At the same time, the scarce 9M38s were capable of intercepting targets at a distance of up to 32,000 meters and an altitude of up to 20,000 meters.

However, it is possible that Ukraine could have received more advanced ESSM missiles, which were designed to be launched from the same installations as the Sea Sparrow. They are capable of intercepting air targets at a distance of more than 50 kilometers and at an altitude of 23-25 kilometers.

One of the main problems with the integration of Western missiles with a semi-active homing head into Soviet air defense systems is the targeting radar, which, due to different frequencies and signal processing computers, cannot guide RIM-7 missiles.

There is currently no public information on how the engineers adapted the Buk systems to the new missiles, but such modernization is not new. For example, as part of a project to modify old Kub systems, the Czech company Retia upgraded them with software updates and changes in radar frequencies, which helped with targeting and guidance.

Air Defense Modernization SAM Ukraine USA