Britain to send Ukraine suicide drones with twice the range of Himars

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky

Announcement that Kyiv will get hundreds of the kamikaze devices to strike back at Russia came as Volodymyr Zelensky met with Rishi Sunak

DEFENCE EDITOR 15 May 2023 • 9:29pm

The UK will send Ukraine hundreds of suicide drones it has had custom-built to support Kyiv on the battlefield.

The announcement came as Volodymyr Zelensky met with Rishi Sunak at Chequers to discuss what further support the UK could provide.

The kamikaze drones have a range of more than 125 miles – more than twice as far as the highly successfully Himars – and complement the long-range Storm Shadow missiles the UK donated to Ukraine last week.

Last Saturday, Ukraine fired the cruise missiles for the first time, hitting a Russian supply depot and a military command centre 80 miles behind the front line.


Storm Shadow vs Himars

Defence sources conceded to the Telegraph that the drones were “one-way”, adding that they had a “primary goal to carry munitions”. 

“They’ve been rapidly developed and adapted at significantly lower costs than others,” they said, adding that “they have a comparable effect to an artillery shell”.

The source said that the secrecy was because of commercial confidence as the drones were still going through the later stages of procurement, before adding: “They will be delivered in the coming months.”

Echoes of Churchill

The Prime Minister hosted the Ukrainian president in the same Chequers room used by Sir Winston Churchill to broadcast defiant speeches vowing victory over the Nazis.

Mr Sunak told Mr Zelensky that “the same way today, your leadership, your country’s bravery and fortitude are an inspiration to us all”.

After Monday’s meeting, Mr Zelensky said he was “very positive” about creating a “jets coalition” in the war against Russia, with a decision expected “in the closest time”.

Emmanuel Macron also said that France had “opened the door” to training Ukrainian fighter pilots.

The French president said: “We have opened the door to training pilots, and this with several other European countries who are also ready. I think discussions are under way with the Americans.”

The Ukrainian president met with Emmanuel Macron on Sunday
The Ukrainian president met with Emmanuel Macron on SundayCREDIT: Corbis News

Earlier this year QinetiQ, the Hampshire-based defence technology company, worked with the Ministry of Defence on a drone programme to “provide recommendations for uncrewed aircraft systems that could be deployed readily by the Ukrainian military”.

According to QinetiQ, one of the test projects included a 3D-printed delta-wing “suicide” drone. There was no indication that this was the weapon procured for Ukraine.

In February, Mr Sunak pledged that the UK would supply Kyiv with longer-range capabilities that would “disrupt Russia’s ability to continually target Ukraine’s civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukraine’s front lines”.

Earlier this month, Ukraine was forced to deny involvement in a drone attack that struck the Kremlin, with Western officials unclear on the source of the drones. In granting Ukraine drones on Monday, No 10 was clear they were to be used only on Ukrainian soil.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our support has always been on the condition that it is used to defend Ukrainian sovereignty. That is no different with these drones.”

Asked whether the UK Government’s position meant that striking targets within Russia would go beyond the purpose of defending Ukraine, the spokesman replied: “Yes, I think there is no question of this military aid we’re providing as being used for anything other than the defence of Ukraine and Ukraine soil.”

Greg Bagwell, the president of the UK Air & Space Power Association, said that the concept of the new drones was similar to supplying Ukraine with Storm Shadow.

Storm Shadow missile

The RAF’s long-range cruise missile is armed with a specialist penetrating warhead designed to destroy hardened and buried targets from long range. It is made to be fitted to Western-made fighter jets but can be adapted for Soviet-era aircraft.


UK / France 












186 miles

He said: “It’s upping the ante. It flies to a point on the ground and goes bang.”

Mr Bagwell added that supplying Ukraine with drones that can travel more than 100 miles allowed them “to strike beyond the limited range of artillery it has up until now”.

He added: “Ukraine now has the chance to strike back which it hasn’t had until now.

“This is a war of logistics and if you can deny the other side access to logistics, that’s what changed the game. Everyone has resisted going deeper up until now. 

“But if you look at the geography and battle front, Russia has been immune from attack from Ukraine. Now they have the ability to do something about it. That will make Russia think twice about what it’s doing.” 

Meanwhile, Russia said that the new UK weapons would cause only “further destruction” as they claimed to have downed a Storm Shadow cruise missile that Britain said last week it was providing, in the West’s first deployment of long-range rocketry for Ukraine.

On Monday, Mr Zelensky thanked Western partners for all the weaponry procured on his lightning visit of European capitals.

Alongside the British support, France offered dozens more light tanks and armoured vehicles, while Germany said it was preparing a new military package worth €2.7 billion (£2.3 billion), its biggest yet for Ukraine.



Putin is on the ropes. Britain can prepare Ukraine for the final blow

This war cannot be allowed to drag into next year. We must give the hawks circling Putin the “carrion” they need to remove him

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon

15 May 2023 • 2:58pm

The Russians are down, but not quite out. With Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the UK meeting Rishi Sunak, British arms could soon enable the Ukrainian armed forces to deliver the killing blow. Today’s announcement has covered attack drones and air defence missiles; last week, we saw the donation of Storm Shadow missile systems. And, of course, there’s the offer of training for jet pilots.

It’s all good stuff, but Britain’s lead must be followed by others. America and Europe must rally and give Kyiv everything it asks for this week; long range missiles do no good on the shelves of warehouses when they could be blowing up Russian tanks. And if we don’t enable Ukraine to finish the war this year, we will be storing up trouble for years to come.

What was meant to be a “Special Military Operation” lasting a few weeks has turned into a 15-month military disaster for the Russian autocrat. Things are bad on the battlefield, and a quick scan of the headlines in the last month hints that far worse could be following. In a signal humiliation, the defences of the Kremlin were apparently breached by a drone, while a much-vaunted Russian hypersonic missile, supposedly overmatching anything Nato could muster, was unceremoniously shot out of the sky by a US-provided Patriot missile system.

It’s not as if all is well at home, either. The price cap on oil exports has forced the Kremlin to tax domestic producers more, slowly eroding its capability to produce in the future. This is only going to get worse as the summer will further lessen demand and reduce prices.  Putin’s “magic money tree” is failing him when he needs it most.  

Meanwhile, the infighting between the Wagner group and the Russian MoD speaks to deep tensions that may further degrade battlefield performance, with Wagner now apparently able to call the shots on tactics and supplies.  

And the situation is worsening in Ukraine. A short time after their arrival in Ukraine, it is clear that Western tanks and armoured vehicles are almost ready to conduct deadly combined arms manoeuvre warfare. They will brush aside the untrained conscripts thrown onto the front-lines by the Kremlin. Antiquated Russian tanks hauled out of storage won’t last a minute in a scrap with a Challenger 2; the depleted uranium shells fired by the British tanks will punch through them as if they weren’t there, while the return fire is unlikely to do more than scratch the paintwork.

What’s more, the operational security around their deployment has been outstanding. We don’t know where they are, or what the plan of attack is; neither do the Russians. The sudden appearance of formations of Western made armour is likely to produce a rout in troops already low in morale, badly led and with little ammunition.

Things have become so desperate that the Russians are now apparently using phosphorus bombs to try and burn their way to victory.  Using this chemical in civilian areas is a war crime. That won’t stop Putin. He knows that this medieval style of scorched earth warfare proved highly effective for the Russians and Assad Regime in Syria, rapidly becoming their go-to weapon when conventional fighting failed. The last resort was chemical weapons, which we have not yet seen in Ukraine. I would not bet against an increasingly desperate Kremlin turning to their use; they secured Assad’s survival, the West did nothing in response to their deployment, and Putin is aware that failure could be the end of both his regime and his life. It is this fear that could lead to Putin’s deployment of his deadliest weapon.

Civilians are being evacuated in droves, and in panic, from the area around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Many analysts believe this is in response to Ukrainian shelling and the threat posed by a strong counterattack spearheaded by modern Western tanks. But while it may be speculation, there are some who believe Moscow may be planning to use the plant as some form of “improvised nuclear device”; a kill-switch for Russian occupation in the area. It seems inconceivable, but how many times have we seen Putin cross red lines we believed inviolable? 

This war cannot be allowed to drag into next year. We must give the hawks circling Putin the “carrion” they need to remove him. And we must give Zelensky all the military capability needed to kick the Russians out of Ukraine.


  1. Selected comments from DT readers:

    Ron Thompson: “hundreds of suicide drones it has had custom-built to support Kyiv”
    That’s exactly the sort of thing we should be doing. Rapidly developing low cost, high effectiveness systems, rather than the decades-long often non-functional and unaffordable projects the MOD tends to come up with.
    Well done for designing and quickly (I hope) supplying Ukraine with this kit. If it can carry enough punch, it’ll be excellent for taking out tanks and bridges way behind Russian lines.

    five dialogues : Yes it is always best to go in hard and finish early. If anyone has war aims and motives other than helping Ukraine, who are bearing the brunt of this brutality. That is not acceptable.

    JM MM : As with Adolf, this monster has to be totally defeated. The world cannot allow these atrocities to continue.

    Many trolls are active. A putler shit-eater calling itself P Morgan writes: De Bretton Gorblimey! Sheer fantasy. If this misty-eyed dreamer would like to place a bet that Russia will not end up with at least the bulk of two provinces plus Crimea I will offer him long odds. If he wants to bet that Russia will not end up with four provinces plus Crimea I will give him evens, He can contact me at

    John Mercer: Well, 2023 will be a mixed set of results for Ukraine.
    Won the war with Russia but lost the Eurovision song contest.
    I guess one out of two ain’t bad.

    Charlie Wimbledon: Pro-war Russian nationalists, led by Igor Girkin, said on Friday that a new group they’d set up was entering politics to “save Russia”… which they warned was in danger of turmoil or even collapse due to military failures in the Ukraine war.

    Charlie Wimbledon: Ukraine is fighting not just to retake captured territory but for its country’s future.
    Russia is determined to coerce and control Ukraine’s political future…
    Russia has shown it seeks to do the same to many countries in Europe… where will its invading mindset stop? We have to help Ukraine stop it.
    Ukraine’s security and prosperity lies with the West, and being part of the West.
    The conflict will not end until Ukraine is part of it.

    Andrew Wood : t is the Ukrainians who stopped the Russian invasion and drove them back from the gates of Kiev.
    It is the Ukranians who have held Bakhmut and who are now slowly pushing them back.
    A monumental national effort.
    Britain has played a small part in the war effort, supplying more than its share of arms and support. But no British forces have stuck there head above the parapet or put themselves in harms way.
    But still it is Ukraine that has done it.
    To suggest that the UK contribution has made the difference is both arrogant and also insulting to the Ukrainian nation.

    reply from Hugh Graham : Tell that to the Ukrainians saving Kiev with UK made NLAWS last year..Andy…

    Reply from JM MM: Rubbish. UK and others are doing all they can to support Ukraine, short of stsrting WW3 with Russia. Ukraine has been helped by British training for its troops as well as arms and equipment. Ukraine is fighting valiantly but could not do so without the support of others.

    Barnaby Rudge: When this war finishes and Ukraine prevails, the Russians are to be excluded for two generations.

    Another one from Charlie : Churchillian comparisons with Zelensky standing in the same room that Churchill used in Chequers today… truly inspirational how he has United Europe against Russian imperialist expansion. Someone should give him a prize!

    Martin Mitchell: France, following Britain, will give Ukraine long-range missiles as part of a new aid package – Macron
    France also has Storm Shadow missiles in service, but uses the name SCALP-EG for them.

    Wensleydale Cheese: Putin super-fans still frothing after more than a year now.
    Poor souls cannot believe their fascistic hero has been a complete failure as a military dictator.

    Putler troll Patrick Joyce : Getting seriously out hand we mustn’t,t get involved I just cannot see Ukraine getting any help re air power would set a dangerous precedence!

Martyn Edwards : Reply to Patrick Joyce : Precedent you Russian stooge. 

William Parker : Reply to Patrick Joyce : You any relation to William Joyce by any chance?

    Bees Knees: To the Russian trolls on here trying to turn our direction to money and cost, you’re failing to recognise that in Britain we find the genocide of innocent Ukrainians more concerning than how much we pay for a pack of carrots. Sure, we moan about it. But it will never outweigh the evil being done in Ukraine. So don’t waste your time.

    Ian Metcalfe: It has been a disaster since day one for Russia. Casualties into the hundreds of thousands. Troops armed with equipment that offers no protection. Withdrawals, failed attacks and huge tactical failures have been the hallmarks of their invasion.
    They are now a pariah state (aside from their fair-weather friends buying gas off them at clearance prices). Their is an exodus of skilled people from Russia and their economy is in serious difficulty.
    Russia has already lost. They will rue the day they ever set foot in Ukraine.

    Jonathan Karmi: This mass mobilisation of trolls indicates desperation on the part of Russia. Recent Storm Shadow attacks have got them seriously worried. They don’t know how to respond and are thrashing around in typically moronic fashion. Russia is about to be defeated spectacularly and they don’t like it.


    And finally, a star comment from Paul Wusteman:

    The key point in the article is that BOTH Russian arms are failing (except for murdering civilians) in Ukraine AND , according the official Russian figures, the sanctions are now having a devastating effect on Russia’s government finances – with the budget hugely increased by the war. Russia will have used up all its huge savings and go bankrupt by the end of 2023.
    Those who have looked into it recently will have been shocked by Russian thinking and expectations. Putin does represent Russian public opinion, in an isolated society, in his belief in Russia’s imperial destiny, allowing it to occupy or control neighbouring states and crush the Ukrainians. Utterly weird – but true. There is also Russian paranoia – previously totally unjustified but suddenly now more realistic given what the Russians have done to Ukraine (and the damage to Western economies ).
    We simply CANNOT waste the immense suffering of the Ukrainians – and economic chaos in the West – by having some sort of peace that allows the Russians to refill the coffers, re-arm and go again – which expert opinion states is what will happen, even under any conceivable successor for Putin,
    We have to finish the job – and remove the Russian state’s capacity to threaten the West – and that, as the article shows – is within our grasp. The alternative for us is to live forever with the threat from Russia when we now have the opportunity to draw Russia’s fangs. After 500 years of Russian racist, savage, imperialistic autocratic delusions – we have a chance to remove the threat which Russia presents by ending the Russian state as we know it.

      • “It flies to a point on the ground and goes bang.”

        Could be the title of the next song by Antytila!

        The light is appearing at the end of the tunnel. Victory is getting closer.

  2. It seems to me that Zelensky and Sunak have become good friends. I see it in their gestures when they meet. Of course, this always helps in a situation such as this. Ukraine benefits greatly by the cordial relationship, and I think Britain will too at some point in the future.

    • Definitely. I wrote a comment about the logical next step, which is for Ukraine to join the British Commonwealth.

      • Here is a copy of that : The RAF is already training Ukrainian pilots on simulators compatible with advanced fighters, including F16’s.
Rishi could buy three squadrons from our allies, with all the tech support needed and get them out there pronto.
Or, he could give Zel all of our decommissioned Tornadoes that are in working order; approximately three squadrons worth. It’s an old analogue fighter-bomber, but flies at Mach 2 and will be extremely effective as a multi-role combat aircraft.
Plus: more Challies and more artillery.
Also : it is time to formalise and cement our relationship. I suggest that we invite Ukraine into the Commonwealth of Nations. (AKA The British Commonwealth). This will be incredibly beneficial for both parties in terms of trade, diplomacy, intel-sharing and hi tech cooperation.
I would like Ukraine to have the same status as Canada, NZ and Australia. We have far more in common with Ukrainians than French and Germans.
I would also invite Poland, for the same reasons.
Finally and most important: there already exists a tripartite alliance between Poland, the UK and Ukraine. It focuses on cyber security, energy security and countering disinformation. It is now time to fully militarise this alliance and maybe add the Balts, Czechia and Slovakia.
In the horrific event of a Trumpkov govt, this would ensure that Ukraine can continue to defend herself.

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