Britain is giving Ukraine armoured anti-aircraft vehicles armed with high-precision missiles that can destroy jets and helicopters, it is understood.
The 13.5-tonne Stormer vehicles look similar to tanks but rather than firing shells they launch 17 high-velocity Starstreak missiles. Each laser-guided projectile splits into three darts, ripping apart targets with kinetic impact.
Until now, Ukraine has been able to fire the missiles only from shoulder launchers or portable stands, which are more difficult to aim. Stormers are easier to operate and can clear Ukraine’s skies of Russian aircraft wherever they are stationed, according to analysts.
The Ministry of Defence is said to have demonstrated the Stormer’s abilities to Ukrainians in a display on Salisbury Plain two weeks ago.
According to The Sun, “a handful of Stormers” are being deployed alongside 120 personnel carriers. The tracked vehicles — operated by a driver, commander and gunner — can be loaded on to C-17 transport aircraft and flown to Ukraine in a matter of days. Once there, they would be able to drive into position on the battlefield at 50mph, fire a missile and then speed off.
A defence source told The Times that Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, would make a statement about British support for Ukraine in parliament this week. “It is no secret that the UK has committed to helping Ukraine with its anti-air capabilities,” the source said.
The Stormer system was previously on display alongside Starstreak during a weapons demonstration at Baker Barracks near Portsmouth last month, when it is understood there were no plans to send it to Ukraine. It is manufactured by BAE Systems. A Times reporter tried simulators for both systems and failed to hit any targets firing Starstreak missiles from the shoulder launcher. When he tried the Stormer he was able to destroy targets on the most advanced setting. Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said: “The Stormer-Starstreak combination will be a huge boost to Ukraine’s fighting capability. It is an extremely effective, highly mobile combat vehicle that will do severe damage to any attempts at low-level attack by Putin’s air force.”
The Stormer can launch 17 Starstreak missiles
However he warned: “This news will anger Moscow, which is already threatening retaliation against the West — especially Britain — for supplying weapons. Unless Putin wishes to initiate a war with Nato he cannot attack weapons supplies before they enter Ukraine. However he could carry out cyberattacks, sabotage, assassination or other covert attacks for which his intelligence services have proven capability, including in the UK.”