The NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine witnessed another escalation this week, with the UK announcing the delivery of long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Kiev.
What are these weapons? How do they differ from missiles already supplied to Ukraine? And what can Russia do about them?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken distanced the State Department from the UK’s decision to send Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine after the Kremlin warned that it considers the development very negatively and said it would require an adequate response by the Russian side.
Different countries will do different things, depending on their own capabilities, depending on their own technology, depending on what makes the most sense. So we’ve provided some things uniquely to Ukraine through this process.
Other countries may do things different than what we’re doing. The question is: Does the whole thing add up to what Ukraine needs? And we’re determined that it does so, Blinken told US media on Thursday.
Asked point blank whether the State Department supports the escalatory step, Blinken deferred to Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin on the matter, adding that besides weapons, support for Ukraine can include training, maintenance, and understanding how to use all these things in a cohesive and effective plan – combined arms, as it’s called in the business.
This isn’t the first time London has decided to think differently from its allies across the Atlantic. Earlier this year, the UK became the first NATO power to agree to send current-generation main battle tanks to Kiev.
Then in March, the Ministry of Defense revealed that the tanks would be armed with depleted uranium munitions – highly toxic weapons which have devastated wide swathes of the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, and have given rise to a host of cancers and other deadly diseases among both local populations and NATO servicemen.
Storm Shadows, which defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed this week are either going into or are already in the country itself, are cruise missiles with a range of up to 250 km for the export version and up to 560 km for the domestic variant.
If fired over northeastern Ukraine, the export variant Anglo-French weapons would have sufficient range to target major Russian cities like Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh or Sevastopol, as well much of Belarus – including its capital, Minsk.
British officials privately assured that Kiev has promised that the missiles would not be used to attack targets inside Russia.
But that’s little consolation to Moscow, given that Ukraine’s government moved to turn the crisis into a terror bombing free-for-all over a year ago, not only indiscriminately and deliberately targeting cities in Donbass, but attempting to launch missile, artillery, and drone attacks on targets deep inside Russia.
The Storm Shadow is the most potent NATO missile delivered to Kiev to date, and has a range well beyond the 75 km that the HIMARS rockets that have been delivered in the thousands over the past year.
The $2.5 million-apiece cruise missile weighs 1.3 tons, has a length of 5.1 meters, a diameter of about 0.4 meters, and a 450 kg tandem warhead – enough to destroy heavy fortifications, or level apartment buildings, industrial facilities, railway junctions, or columns of vehicles and troops.
A warship-fired derivative exists, with that variant having a range of up to 1,400 km, and a 300 kg warhead. The missiles feature inertial navigation, combined with GPS and terrain referencing.
The UK is estimated to have been 700 and 1,000 Storm Shadows in stock. This is an air-launched rocket that uses stealth technology. The warhead can be a cassette munition or a penetrating warhead, and has a 450 kg weight.
As a rule, it’s installed on European-produced aircraft…It’s not installed on US aircraft. The French version differs from the British one only in the interface for installation on the corresponding fighters.
Created jointly by Matra BAe Dynamics – a British-French missile-focused defense giant created in the 1990’s, the Storm Shadow was first introduced into service in 2002, just in time for the USA and NATO-led decade-and-a-half long campaign of invasions and bombings in the Middle East.
British forces first used Storm Shadows in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, with the British, French, and Italian air forces using them again during the NATO air war of aggression in Libya in 2011.
The missiles were then used by French and British forces in Syria in 2015, 2016, and 2018, including strikes purportedly targeting ISIS, and targeting Syrian forces based on false flag evidence of a chemical attack by the Syrian government (the pretext for the latter attack was later revealed to have been a hoax).
In addition to delivery to NATO countries like Italy and Greece, Storm Shadows have been exported to India, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, with the latter using them against Houthi militia fighters in Yemen.
Storm Shadows are designed to operate from Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, Mirage 2000, and Tornado jets.
Ukraine has none of these planes, and the UK and NATO have so far been reluctant to hand over advanced aircraft to Kiev amid reported fears that Russia would quickly decimate them.
Getting them to operate would require Ukraine’s Air Force to adapt them to their MiG-29 or Su-27 fighters, Su-25 close air support bombers, or Su-24 strike jets.
Either of these options carries limitations, with all of these planes apart from the Su-24 facing payload restrictions that would limit how many Storm Shadows the planes would actually be able to carry (payload weight limits range from 2,500-4,500 kg, depending on plane and modification).
On top of that are fundamental design differences between the NATO and Warsaw Pact planes (all of Ukraine’s combat aircraft are designs left over from the Soviet period).
They would need a flight and navigation complex, a special program with data on range, altitude, thrust, g-forces, turn angle. It will be necessary to pick and somehow select targets, the retired colonel explained to Russian media.
If you attach them to the Su-27 or MiG-29, serious revisions would need to be made. A large number of questions arise about how this will all be organized, and in what time frame.
The other option is a ground-based platform – but that would require an entire new command and control system, according to Khatylev.
In addition to the launcher, you would need a command and control vehicle. You’d need to get the target designation from somewhere.
In addition to targeting the weapons on route to their destinations, air bases, or Ukraine’s remaining inventory of fighters and bombers, Russia can respond to the delivery of Storm Shadows by further shoring up its layered missile defenses.
Khatylev pointed out that delivery means for the Storm Shadows are only one part of the equation. The other is Russian air power and air defenses.
We aren’t allowing Ukraine’s Air Force to fly. Russian aviation has won air superiority. If they use these missiles from aircraft, it would actually be good for us, because it’s easier to target airplanes than missiles themselves.
We’ll hit the carriers. The kill zone of the S-400 is several hundred kilometers; upon entering this zone, it will simply destroy the carrier.
If the missiles are launched, detecting and targeting them in a timely manner would crucial, he added, noting that systems capable of targeting the Storm Shadow include the S-400, S-300, and shorter-range Buk-M3 and Buk-M2 systems operating in tandem.
The defenses around Crimea are a perfect example of layered anti-aircraft and anti-missile defenses, Khatylev emphasized.
There, the Black Sea Fleet, air defense units, the air force, the army corps, special forces have brought together all of their reconnaissance capabilities, as well as their fire systems, into a single system.
All of this in accordance with a single plan, from one command post. And all of this has an effect.
In other words, using Storm Shadows in an imperialist war against war-torn developing countries with limited or non-existent air and missile defenses is one thing – trying to use them against a nation like Russia is something else.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2023.