The UK has confirmed that it has supplied Ukraine with Storm Shadow long-range, air-launched cruise missiles, a move that could significantly alter the balance of power in the ongoing conflict with Russia.
The Storm Shadow missiles have a range of over 560 km (350 miles) and can evade enemy radar by flying at low altitude. They are fired from aircraft, which means Ukrainian pilots can stay further away from the frontlines and avoid being shot down by Russian air defences.
The decision to send the missiles was announced by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in the House of Commons on Thursday. He said that the donation of these weapon systems gives Ukraine the best chance to defend itself against Russia’s continued brutality. He also said that the UK stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine in its fight for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ukraine has long been asking for more weapons from the West, especially longer-range missiles that can strike Russian targets beyond the reach of its current arsenal. The US has supplied Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles and Himars rocket launchers, but these have a range of only around 80 km (50 miles). Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said earlier this year that if his country could strike at a distance of up to 300 km, the Russian army would not be able to provide defence and would have to lose.
Ukraine has also assured its Western allies that it would not use the long-range missiles to attack targets within Russia itself, as that could trigger a nuclear response from Moscow. Reznikov said that Ukraine is ready to provide any guarantees that its weapons will not be involved in attacks on Russian territory.
The UK is the first country to give Ukraine longer-range weapons, and it is unclear if other countries will follow suit.
Russia has reacted angrily to the UK’s decision, saying that it would require an appropriate response from its military. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow considers any supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine as a hostile act that undermines the prospects of a peaceful settlement of the conflict. He also warned that Russia reserves the right to take any measures necessary to ensure its security and interests.
The Storm Shadow missile has been used by both British and French air forces in previous conflicts, such as in Iraq, Libya and Syria. It is considered one of the most advanced and accurate cruise missiles in the world, capable of hitting targets with pinpoint precision. It carries a 450 kg (990 lb) warhead that can penetrate hardened bunkers and destroy command centres, airfields, bridges and other strategic assets.
The supply of Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine could give it a significant edge over Russia in terms of firepower and deterrence.
Storm Shadow cruise missile
Storm Shadow is a long-range air-launched cruise missile that can strike high-value targets with precision and stealth. It was developed jointly by France and the UK in 1994 and is now manufactured by MBDA, a European defence company. The Storm Shadow is also known as SCALP-EG in French service, which stands for “Système de Croisière Autonome à Longue Portée – Emploi Général” or “General Purpose Long-Range Cruise Missile”.
The Storm Shadow has a range of over 300 nautical miles (560 km; 350 mi) and can fly at a speed of about 1,000 km/h (620 mph). It is powered by a small turbojet engine that allows it to cruise at low altitude and avoid radar detection. The missile carries a 450 kg (990 lb) warhead that features a two-stage explosive charge: the first one penetrates the target’s surface or bunker, while the second one detonates inside to cause maximum damage. The missile uses a combination of inertial, GPS and terrain-matching guidance systems to find its target and an imaging infrared seeker to confirm its identity before impact.
The Storm Shadow can be launched from various aircraft platforms, such as the Tornado, the Mirage 2000, the Rafale, the Typhoon and the Gripen. It has been used in several military operations, such as in Iraq, Libya and Syria, to attack command and control centres, airfields, ports, power stations, bridges and other strategic assets. The Storm Shadow is considered one of the most advanced and effective cruise missiles in the world and has given its operators a significant edge in modern warfare.