What is a Storm Shadow cruise missile?

The missile carries a range exceeding 155 miles and is designed to evade detection despite flying low after being launched

Arpan Rai,Cameron Henderson
Thursday 14 September 2023 05:58 BST
Military expert explains how Ukraine’s new Storm Shadow cruise missiles work

British Storm Shadow cruise missiles were likely used in the largest Ukrainian attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet since the start of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion.

Military sources said Wednesday’s early morning attack on the main Crimean naval base at Sevastopol used Storm Shadow missiles, delivered to Kyiv by the UK earlier this year.

These missiles have a range of more than 150 miles and can be fired by Ukrainian aircraft. In his overnight message after the attack, Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “especially grateful” to Ukraine’s pilots.

It is not the first time Ukraine has deployed British Storm Shadow missiles during the war, and France has also been providing Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles. In June, the then-defence secretary Ben Wallace told parliament that the missiles were already having a “significant impact on the battlefield”.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive now in its fourth month with the country’s forces repulsing attacks using several western weapon systems to boost its defence operations to stand up against Russia.

In its arsenal of striking targets alongside top-tier rocket launcher systems sent from the West, including the HIMARS, are the British Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

Manufacturer MBDA has said that the missile, which is fired from an aircraft, carries a range exceeding 155 miles and is designed to evade detection despite flying low after being launched.

By contrast, the US-supplied Himars missiles currently used by Ukraine only have a range of around 50 miles.

The longer range means Ukrainian pilots will be able to remain further from the front lines.

But is still short of the 185-mile range of the US built Army Tactical Missile System, which Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s staff had reportedly asked for.

Powered by a turbo-jet engine, the 1,300kg Storm Shadow travels at speeds of more than 600mph, is just over five metres long and has a wingspan of three metres.

After launch, the weapon, equipped with its own navigation system, descends to a low altitude to avoid detection before locking on to its target using an infra-red seeker.

On final approach the missile climbs to a higher altitude to maximise the chances of hitting the target.

On impact, it penetrates the target before a delayed fuse detonates the main warhead.

Storm Shadow missiles have been used by British and French air forces in the Gulf, Iraq and Libya.

In May this year, the UK confirmed it will supply Ukraine with the long-range Storm Shadow missiles it requested for its fight against invading Russian forces.

Mr Wallace had touted that the weapons will give Ukraine the “best chance” of defending itself.

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