Game Changer From UK: Ukraine Gets Storm Shadow Stealth Missile From the Great Britain

Storm Shadow/SCALP missile / Photo credit: MBDA
Storm Shadow/SCALP missile / Photo credit: MBDA

Storm Shadow has all it takes to turn the tides of the war in Ukraine, and may prove an even better choice than American ATACMS

Discussion around the possible transfer of Storm Shadow (a.k.a. SCALP) cruise missile from MBDA has been on the table for a while. For the first time the issue was publicly raised was in November 2022, and then reignited a few days ago.

On May 11, British Minister of Defense Ben Wallace confirmed the transfer of Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine and even said some of them had already been delivered.

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It means the Armed Forces of Ukraine have received new capabilities for attacking targets times further than what the most far-reaching weapons previously provided. That is, Ukraine gets a weapon to strike targets at least 250 km from the launch point, the exact figure will depend on the specific modification.

Storm Shadow missile
Storm Shadow missile / Image credit: MBDA

Moreover, this is a stealth missile designed for breaching enemy air defense at low altitude, with state-of-art guidance systems: not only inertial and satellite, but also with a DSMAC technology that compares images taken by the missile during the flight to the reference image; at the terminal stage it also activates an IR homing head that seeks for a target with pre-entered parameters.

The warhead is 450 kg which is, for comparison, twice as heavier than the explosive charge of ATACMS missiles that could complement Ukrainian HIMARS rocket systems but haven't been officially supplied by the United States yet.

Also, we have to add that an aircraft armed with Storm Shadow is much more mobile than any wheeled launcher truck. One multirole fighter can fire multiple missiles in northern, eastern and southern directions in a day, whereas HIMARS for that would need to spend a few days on the move, at night to keep it hidden from enemy eyes.

That said, the UK-donated missile may become a real game changer given the real and potential opportunities it creates for the Ukrainian forces. And the range of 250 km is debatable as it is the figure for the export variant, while Ukraine may have been supplied with the original version with a firing range of 560 km.

Eurofighter Typhoon armed with Storm Shadow missiles
Eurofighter Typhoon armed with Storm Shadow missiles / Photo credit: MBDA

Here we should make a remark. In February this year, belarus announced it received from russia some Iskander short-range missile systems with ballistic missiles reaching 500 km away, as well as cruise missiles to them that have a minimum firing range of 1,500 km. In this manner, russia violated the Missile Technology Control Regime which required the Kremlin to not supply to other countries or help them in creation of missiles with a range exceeding 300 km. It leaves an open question whether Ukraine still needs to adhere to this norm while russians keep shelling Ukrainian cities from the territory of belarus.

Storm Shadow under the wing of Rafale
Storm Shadow under the wing of Rafale / Photo credit: MBDA

We should also take note of how London repeatedly stepped up in the vanguard of approving key decisions in supporting Ukraine in its fighting against russian invasion, by deeds rather than words. It was Great Britain that established an air bridge for the quick transfer of thousands of NLAW anti-tank weapons to Ukraine days before the all-out assault of the russian army in 2022. And it was the UK that was first to approve the supply of Western tanks, namely Challenger 2 – while the French AMX-10RC, although called a "wheeled tank", is still a reconnaissance vehicle.

Finally, there is a question of how the Storm Shadow should be integrated in the arsenal of Soviet-type aircraft. It's not like we haven't seen HARM anti-radar missiles, or JDAM-ER guided bombs, or Zuni unguided rockets being successfully adapted.

The same way adapting Storm Shadow is possible, because the standard carriers including Eurofighter, Tornado and Rafale only have to deliver this missile to the launch point. The information about the target can be input on the ground, so the way Ukrainian aircraft will use it won't be much different from how they use HARM.

Tornado fighter with Storm Shadow missiles
Tornado fighter with Storm Shadow missiles / Photo credit: MBDA

As for the potential targets of interest to strike with a Storm Shadow, the criteria are the importance and effect gained from their destruction. After all, this missile is fairly expensive, the approximate price for one is more than $1 mln (as of 2011, the relevant price may be around $2 mln).

The expensiveness is basically the only drawback as this missile was created to break through dense air defenses and eliminate even the most robust targets.

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