A Quick Guide to the Storm Shadow Missiles in Ukraine

While the prospect of further military aid to Ukraine's armed forces from Western allies remained uncertain by the end of 2023, Western weapons have proven to be greatly effective in deterring Russia's invasion – one notable example would be the UK's Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles.

Not only are they effective in striking strategic Russian military targets, but they also demonstrated Ukrainian ingenuity in adapting to the changing circumstances.

Development and History

The Storm Shadow was developed in the 1990s by MBDA, a joint venture between British and French defense companies. France also supplied Ukraine with the French variant known as the SCALP-EG.

The design was based on the French Apache anti-runway missile, which bears a visual resemblance to the Storm Shadow.


It was first deployed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and entered service the same year, where it was carried by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 jets. Since then, it has seen combat in numerous conflicts globally, including Libya, Afghanistan, Syria – and more recently, the war in Ukraine.

Technical Specifications

The Storm Shadow is a subsonic air-launched cruise missile designed to strike pre-planned stationary targets.

It weighs 1,300 kg and is equipped with a conventional 450 kg multistage Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge (BROACH) warhead designed to penetrate targets. It consists of an initial shape charge stage, which would allow a larger warhead to penetrate and detonate inside the target.

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The missile is powered by a turbojet engine with a range exceeding 250 km, according to the MBDA website. It is a fire-and-forget missile aided by a combination of GPS, terrain-referenced navigation (TRN), and internal inertial navigation systems (INS) that allow it to follow the path semi-autonomously, where it would then gain altitude and switch to an infrared (IR) camera to match the target stored image upon final impact.


Storm Shadow Missiles in Ukraine

In May 2023, Kyiv received a batch of Storm Shadow long range cruise missiles from the UK, which is among the first long-range missiles provided by its allies, according to former British Defense Minister Ben Wallace.

In August, France confirmed that similar Scalp missiles were transferred to Ukraine.

However, since Ukraine does not field any NATO aircraft, adjustments are needed to resolve the incompatibility issue.

As a workaround, Ukraine equipped its Su-24Ms and Su-24MRs supersonic bombers with the Storm Shadows using decommissioned pylons from the RAF Tornado GR4 fighters, according to military analysts. But as a result, it is also believed that coordinates were entered pre-flight as the pilot could not relay target information using Soviet avionics.

The Storm Shadow's range and penetration power gave Ukraine long-range precision strike capability, and Ukraine has used it to attack strategic targets of the Russian forces during its counteroffensive.

In July, Russian media claimed a Storm Shadow was used to strike a hotel in occupied Berdyansk and killed a high-ranking general. The same month, Russian air defense allegedly shot down a Storm Shadow in Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine.


A video published by the Ukrainian Air Force on Facebook implied that a Storm Shadow missile, deployed using a Su-24 jet, was used in an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol that destroyed the Rostov-on-Don submarine and Minsk landing ship.

As the war in Ukraine continues, the Storm Shadow may continue to play a significant role in a new stage of Ukraine's counteroffensive by striking Russian targets in Crimea and other occupied territories.

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