What are the 'Storm Shadow' missiles being donated to Ukraine and how do they work?

Storm Shadow CASOM (Conventionally Armed Stand Off Missile) This long-range air-launched and conventionally-armed missile equips RAF Tornado GR4 squadrons and saw operational service in 2003 with 617 Squadron during combat in Iraq, prior to entering full service in 2004. - MoD
The UK is donating Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. Credit: Ministry of Defence

By Lottie Kilraine, Multimedia Producer

The government has announced it will be donating long-range ‘Storm Shadow’ cruise missiles to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading with the West for missiles of this kind for months, and finally his efforts have paid off.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that he and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had agreed to authorise the donation after continued Russian attacks on Ukraine.

What are Storm Shadow missiles?

Ben Wallace has said the high-precision missiles will provide Ukraine with "new capabilities" and allow a "push back" of Russian forces based across the border.

The Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile made in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, by the manufacturer MBDA.

The cruise missiles are jointly developed by the UK and France, and each one costs an estimated £2 million.

The missiles have a firing range in excess of 250km, or 155 miles, which is similar to the distance from London to Cardiff.

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

A Tornado GR4 fighter armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles Credit: MoD

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 infrared 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.

'Not even in the same league as Russian weapons'

Storm Shadow missiles have been used by British and French air forces in the Gulf, in Iraq in 2003, and in Libya in 2011.

The missiles give Ukraine capacity to strike well behind the front lines, including in Russia-occupied Crimea.

But Ukraine has pledged not to use the missiles to attack Russia.

Ben Wallace told the House of Commons on Thursday: “Today I can confirm that the UK is donating Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine.

“Storm Shadow is a long-range, conventional-only, precision-strike capability.

"It complements the long-range systems already gifted, including Himars and Harpoon missiles, as well as Ukraine’s own Neptune cruise missile.”

He noted that MPs should recognise that Storm Shadow missiles “are not even in the same league” as some of the long-range weapons Russia has used.

He added: “The donation of these weapons systems gives Ukraine the best chance to defend themselves against Russia’s continued brutality, especially the deliberate targeting of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, which is against international law."

What has the response been?

Labour welcomed the announcement, with shadow defence secretary John Healey saying Storm Shadow “will strengthen Ukraine’s fight to repel the Russian forces”.

He added: “We are united in our determination to help in the defence of Ukraine and of our shared values … we welcome this vital new military support as the Ukrainians prepare for their expected counter-offensive.”

However, Conservative chair of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood warned “this isn’t going to end simply when the Ukrainians decide to push forward”.

He added: “We should expect Russia to go ugly, to use unconventional systems in response”.

Responding, Mr Wallace said: “I think we should always manage our expectations that it is not all over by Christmas.”

The Defence Secretary also said an international meeting to look at ways to restrict Russia’s finances would be a “good idea”.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns told the Commons: “I welcome the delivering of Storm Shadow because we must do all we can to even the odds for our Ukrainian friends who face a well-armed terrorist state.

“However, I am concerned that at this point we have not managed to suffocate Putin’s war machine.

"Yes, we need to deliver military aid, but we also need to make sure that we suffocate the finances that allow Putin to continue to wage this war.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace meeting Ukrainian soldiers during a visit to Bovington Camp, a British Army military base in Dorset. Credit: PA

“So can I urge (Mr Wallace) to lobby the Chancellor to establish an economic Ramstein of G7 Treasury ministers or allied nations who can come together and make sure that economically we are doing what is needed.”

Mr Wallace agreed that it was "a good idea" and said he would pass that on to the Chancellor.

He also said the work has been done through the G7, adding: “We do see in the Russian industrial base it is now struggling in some of its rearming of its equipment because so much of its subsystems seem to have come from the west.”

He continued by suggesting that the UK could help by refurbishing captured Russian tanks as a way of helping Ukraine continue its fight.

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