Ukraine has long appealed to Western countries for the transfer of long-range weapons to disrupt the rear and logistical routes used by the invading Russian soldiers.
Ukraine’s government and military command asked for American ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometres for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Instead of ATACMS, Ukraine received valuable military aid from Britain in May 2023: Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles with a stated operational range of more than 250 kilometres.
These missiles are primarily intended to strike permanent installations far beyond the front lines.
Key facts about the Storm Shadow cruise missile
- The Storm Shadow/SCALP EG is a long-range air-launched cruise missile developed by France and the United Kingdom.
- It is intended to bypass air defence systems and destroy critical stationary targets, particularly bunkers.
- The 5.1-meter-long missile has a flying weight of up to 1300 kg and a warhead mass of 450 kg.
- From the late 1990s until the early 2000s, Matra (France) and British Aerospace (UK) worked together to develop the missile. The MBDA consortium now manufactures it.
France and the United Kingdom accepted the Storm Shadow/SCALP EG in 2003. Several additional countries have these missiles in service.
The French SCALP EG missile and the British Storm Shadow missile are nearly identical; the only differences are in the software and compatibility with the types of aircraft designed to carry this missile.
The export version of the Storm Shadow/SCALP EG cruise missile has a declared operational range of more than 250 kilometres. The French and British armies could travel up to 560 kilometres.
During the flight to the target, the missile is guided by a triple navigation system that employs inertial navigation, GPS, and terrain tracking.
Infrared homing and automatic target identification techniques are used for final aiming.
These missiles have been used by the Ukrainian Air Force’s Su-24 aircraft in Ukraine.
Storm Shadow missiles supply to Ukraine
Ukrainian combat aircraft has been employing British Storm Shadow precision cruise missiles to hit Russian invading forces in Ukraine’s seized territory since May 2023.
The United Kingdom provided this weaponry to Ukraine as military aid in the face of the all-out Russian invasion, which began on February 24, 2022.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared in February 2023 that his country would be the first to give Ukraine long-range weapons. BBC and CNN claimed on May 11, 2023, citing numerous Western officials, that the UK had delivered the Ukrainian Armed Forces with Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles.
Later, Ben Wallace, the British Secretary of State for Defense, confirmed the transfer of these missiles to Ukraine. According to Ben Wallace, the missiles will “allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces based on Ukrainian sovereign territory.”
He also stated that the UK made this decision because Russia “continued down a dark path,” assaulting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. “The donation of these missile systems gives Ukraine the best chance to defend itself against Russian brutality,” said UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace in the House of Commons.
Integration of British missiles with Ukrainian Air Force aircraft
Ukraine adapted Soviet-era Ukrainian aircraft to use Storm Shadow cruise missiles. On May 24, 2023, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov issued a leaflet depicting a Su-24MR frontline reconnaissance aircraft carrying a Storm Shadow cruise missile.
Images of a Ukrainian Su-24 flying with two British missiles beneath its wings were circulated on social media in June 2023. The aircraft was flying to target Russian invaders in occupied Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine most likely exploited its experience and technical solutions to adapt Soviet-made Ukrainian jets to American HARM anti-radiation missiles and JDAM-equipped bombs, which Ukrainian aviation utilizes to attack Russian invaders.
Storm Shadow combat used by Ukraine’s Armed Forces
The Russians revealed that the Ukrainian military was already utilizing British Storm Shadow cruise missiles the day after it was reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had received them.
Explosions broke out in the centre of captured Luhansk on May 12. On social media, witnesses reported a fire on the former Engineering Plant “100” site, which was used by the Russian military. The weapon employed was unknown. However, the Russians said the strike was carried out with Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
Near the explosion site, residents discovered the wreckage of an ADM-160B MALD Miniature Air Launched Decoy. Its mission was to confuse opposing air defence systems. This could imply that cruise missiles were utilized as decoys to divert Russian air defences. The cruise missiles, on the other hand, specifically targeted specific infrastructure used by the invading Russian army.
On May 13, another explosion rang out in Russian-controlled Luhansk. Then, in the suburbs of Luhansk, a missile strike on the settlement of Yuvileyne was declared. There was information about the demolition of the former University of Internal Affairs building. According to local media, the Russian invasion army may be deployed there.
On May 15, another explosion rang out in Luhansk. The Russians reported a missile attack. According to social media accounts, the former Luhansk Higher Military Aviation School of Navigators was hit. This structure might house a military base or barracks for Russian invasion forces.
Storm Shadow missiles hit Russian military targets in Mariupol and Berdyansk
Storm Shadow cruise missiles were presumably also utilized to target invaders in southern Ukraine. On May 19, massive explosions rang out in the suburbs of Russia-occupied Mariupol, near the city’s airport.
Residents of Mariupol have published many videos of huge explosions. The Russians claimed at the time that four unidentified missiles had supposedly attacked their targets.
On May 21, a series of explosions were heard in the Russia-captured town of Berdyansk in the Zaporizhzhya region. Local Telegram channels reported a fire in the Russian-captured airfield region, with eyewitnesses reporting dense smoke.
On May 26, massive explosions rang out near the Azovstal plant in occupied Mariupol. According to Russian occupation authorities, Ukraine used two Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
After nearly three months of brutal combat, Russian soldiers took Mariupol in May 2022. During this time, many buildings in the town were demolished. A precise death toll is currently unknown, but it’s believed to be very high.
Strong explosions rang out in the Russia-captured town of Berdyansk on May 27. Members of Ukraine’s local resistance movement claimed the missiles were aimed at the invaders’ training grounds. Viktor Dudukalov, Deputy Chairman of the Berdyansk District Council, stated that the explosions occurred near the recreation centres “Himik” and “Vesna” on the coast of the Sea of Azov, where Russian servicemen were stationed.
On the same day, massive explosions were heard on the Azovkabel plant’s property. Strikes were presumably carried out on Russian military stockpiles on the plant’s grounds.
Another missile strike hit installations crucial to Russian soldiers in the seized south on June 2. Missiles were fired at targets near Berdyansk, a seaport used by the Russians to carry munitions and other military supplies.
In late February 2022, Russian invasion forces took the Ukrainian town of Berdyansk. The majority of the Russian sites damaged during these missile operations were out of range of other Western weaponry used by Ukraine’s army, including the HIMARS.
As a result, the Ukrainian military utilized Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which had already been converted for use with Soviet-made combat aircraft in service with the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Air Force.
Storm Shadow’s efficiency
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense praised the effectiveness of Storm Shadow cruise missiles received from the United Kingdom. The Ukrainian military uses these long-range missiles with 100% efficiency, according to Oleksii Reznikov.
“Of the total number of Storm Shadow launches that have already occurred, all 100% are accurate hits on the targets determined by the General Staff – 100 per 100,” said Ukraine’s Defense Minister.
Storm Shadow missiles demonstrated their capacity to breach Russian air defences throughout the occupied areas and strike vital Russian military facilities.
The use of British cruise missiles helps Ukrainian aircraft to expand their combat capabilities.
The psychological impact of using British cruise missiles against invading Russian forces should not be underestimated. Russians are now aware of the Ukrainian army’s ability to deliver precise and painful strikes far behind the frontlines.