The surprise move was announced by the Defence Secretary while addressing the Parliament on the intensification of UK’s military aid to Ukraine.
In an unexpected move after western countries were reluctant to provide Ukraine with long range weapons, the United Kingdom has now announced that Storm Shadow cruise missiles are being sent to Ukraine. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed the news to the Parliament on May 11, 2023 while announcing the intensification of the UK’s military aids to Ukraine.
“Today, I can confirm that the UK has donated Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine,” said Wallace. “Storm Shadow is a long-range conventional precision strike capability. It compliments the long-range systems already gifted, including HIMARS and Harpoon missiles, as well as Ukraine’s own Neptune cruise missiles and longer-range munitions already gifted.
The MBDA Storm Shadow missile is a conventional, stealthy, 1,300 kg standoff weapon (over 5-mt long), designed for use against very high value hardened targets in all-weather conditions without exposing aircraft and crews to high threat levels. The missile had its baptism of fire with the RAF (and Italian) Tornados, which extensively used the Storm Shadow in combat during Libya Air War in 2011.
According to the public info, the Storm Shadow has a 450kg conventional warhead and a range in excess of 250 km. This puts the reach of the Ukrainian military well over the range of the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher, currently the weapon with the longest range donated by the United States, which has a range of 75 km.
“I’m sure the House will understand that I will not go into further details of the capability,” added Wallace. “But while these weapons will give Ukraine new capability, members should recognise that these systems are not in the same league as the Russian AS-24 KILLJOY hypersonic missile or Shahed Iranian one-way attack drones, or their Kalibr cruise missile with a range of over 2,000km. Roughly 7 times that of the Storm Shadow missile.”
While the Secretary did not confirm this, some sources are reporting that a number of missiles has already been delivered. Wallace, however, confirmed that this weapon transfer has been in the works for some time as, before the announcement, the missile has been integrated on an unspecified Ukrainian aircraft.
“It is not easy to take a British-French missile and incorporate it on a former Soviet-era or Russian aircraft. That has been one of the reasons for the time, working out if it is technically feasible,” said the Secretary. “It took long partly because of the technical feasibility. Taking effectively a 5th or 4th generation weapons system and putting it sometimes onto a 3rd or 2nd generation aircraft is not easy and we will see.”
Some unconfirmed reports, which have never been verified by official sources, stated that Ukrainian Su-24 Fencer bombers might have been sent to Poland for the required upgrades before the Storm Shadow could be integrated. Wallace, however, somewhat confirmed that this was not only a UK effort and another country might have been involved.
“I would like to pay tribute to our scientists and our technicians who have done an amazing job not just with this capability – and actually other scientists across Europe who have managed to produce the integration of western weapons into Russian equipment,” said Walalce. “I am not going to comment on when we expect these to be used but nevertheless they have yet to be tested and we will soon find out, maybe in the next weeks or months – we will find out to the extent that that has worked, but that takes time.”