Long-range missiles supplied to Ukraine’s armed forces will present tough new challenges for Russian defenses, Newsweek has been told.
On Thursday, British Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, told U.K. lawmakers that long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles “are now going into, or are in, the country itself.” He did not confirm how many missiles in total would be sent to Ukraine.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked for long-range strike capabilities, but Kyiv’s Western supporters have been reluctant to supply weapons that could be seen as escalatory or offer the ability for Ukraine to strike within Russian territory.
However, Ukraine has insisted it would not use such capabilities to attack targets inside Russia’s borders. Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said in early February that “we will not use weapons supplied by foreign partners to fire on Russian territory.”
With the informational resources Ukraine has access to—in part provided by the West—it is “highly likely that Ukrainian commanders will have excellent information on where to target their new missiles for maximum effect,” said military expert David Hambling.
The missiles have a far better chance of striking a specific target than more basic military drones, he told Newsweek, and will “no doubt be reserved for very high-value targets.”
The air-launched missiles have a range in excess of 155 miles, according to the manufacturer. They are designed to “meet the demanding requirements of pre-planned attacks against high-value, fixed or stationary targets,” even in extreme conditions, MBDA Missile Systems said of the Storm Shadow.
“Russia must recognize that its actions alone have led to such systems being provided to Ukraine,” Wallace told the British Parliament. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, previously said his would “be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons.”
Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said on Thursday that the donation of Storm Shadow missiles “will demand an appropriate response from our military.”
The believed range of the Storm Shadow missiles outstrips the weapons systems the U.S. has donated to Ukraine, including the extended-range versions of the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) guidance systems or the missiles provided by Washington for the HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
There is some doubt, however, over what the true range of the Storm Shadow missiles will be, depending on the model and on different reports, David Jordan, co-director of the Freeman Air and Space Institute at King’s College London, U.K., told Newsweek on Thursday.
Earlier this year, the U.S. said it would send Ukraine Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs, which Pentagon press secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, said in February would afford Ukraine a “longer-range capability.” These bombs have a range of around 94 miles.
The impact these weapons will have will ultimately depends on how many Storm Shadow missiles Ukraine receives, Jordan said, but they are nonetheless of “considerable benefit to the Ukrainians because it gives them the capability, particularly in terms of range, that they haven’t previously had.”
Kyiv’s military will be able to strike hardened targets, including underground command bunkers, logistics hubs and airfields with high accuracy, Jordan said. They will also provide the ability to strike the Kerch Bridge, which connects mainland Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Combined with weapons such as the JDAMs and HIMARS, the Storm Shadow means Russia will “have to think much more deeply about the range at which the Ukrainians can strike back against them,” Jordan said.
The Storm Shadow’s range also creates new headaches for organizing Russian air defenses in coming weeks and months, experts say.
The missile is “effectively unjammable,” and is “highly unlikely to be intercepted” by Russian air defense, Hambling said. Russia will be either forced to move resources, such as ammunition stockpiles, away from the range of these new weapons, or see “hundreds of tons of precious artillery ammunition disappear in a series of massive fireballs.”
When Ukraine lacked longer-range weapons, Russian forces had the “luxury” of knowing when they would be out of range of Ukrainian air-launched munitions, Jordan said. Therefore, Russia could reduce its air defenses around command bases and other logistics bases.
“The more missiles that are in the air, the more defensive systems [and] the more defensive missiles that have to be fired against them in a bid to try to bring them down,” Jordan said.
Moscow’s military will now have to consider all the targets that Storm Shadow missiles may be able to reach, and then how to defend them, experts said. This might mean relocating air defense systems from the frontline, or elsewhere in Russia, to cover areas that were not previously a target. Should these defenses be pulled from the frontlines, this offers a new advantage for Ukraine’s air force, Jordan said.
The move raises questions about whether other NATO countries, such as the U.S., will give Ukraine longer-range weapons such as ATACMS, or Army Tactical Missile Systems. Washington has so far refused to donate these missile systems, which can have a similar range to the Storm Shadows, to Ukraine.
In March, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Defense One website that the U.S. has “relatively few ATACMS, we do have to make sure that we maintain our own munitions inventories, as well.”
But there is a political element to the move, Hambling said. Contrary to Western hesitancy to provide long-range missiles, this announcement hints that “thinking has changed, and in effect further ratchets up the level of support the West is willing to provide.”
“While a small number of missiles from the UK may not make a huge military difference, it may signal the arrival of more and heavier weapons” from NATO countries, Hambling said.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.
“Ukraine has repeatedly asked for long-range strike capabilities, but Kyiv’s Western supporters have been reluctant to supply weapons that could be seen as escalatory or offer the ability for Ukraine to strike within Russian territory.”
Various Western leaders have not grasped the fact that you cannot win a war with a mindset of a jellyfish. Ask those who defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. They have not learned the fact that mafia land must be terrorized. It must be defeated, not just a little, but soundly.
Thank you so much, Great Britain, for helping to get closer to achieving this goal.
You’re ignoring the quote:
> the U.S. has “relatively few ATACMS, we do have to make sure that we maintain our own munitions inventories, as well.”
Also, I believe that in an interview posted here yesterday, someone from GB said that the Storm Shadow missiles being sent were an older version that GB wasn’t using any more.
“…the U.S. has “relatively few ATACMS, we do have to make sure that we maintain our own munitions inventories, as well.”
What do we need them for at the moment? That’s right, for nothing. Besides that, the US can restart production if it chooses to do so. It should’ve happened months ago already, or a better version. There has been plenty of time to work out the required details. We’re heading towards the fifteenth month of war, after all.