The United Kingdom has granted Ukraine a major military advantage in their ongoing war with Russia, delivering a high-tech “Storm Shadow” cruise missile system with a stealth capability and long-range strike capability.
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described the donation as Ukraine’s “best chance” to defend themselves, and it comes as the country prepares to launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces.
The Storm Shadow has a firing range in excess of 250km, or 155 miles, which is just shy of the 185-mile range of US-made surface-to-surface Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, that Ukraine has long asked for. The missile is also “a real game changer from a range perspective,” according to a senior US military official.
The Storm Shadow is a deep strike weapon, according to its manufacturer, MBDA Missile Systems. It can be used day or night, in any weather, and features an advanced navigation system to ensure accuracy. Once launched, it descends to a terrain-hugging altitude to avoid detection, and then its onboard infrared seeker matches the target image with the stored picture to ensure a precision strike.
The UK has received assurances from the Ukrainian government that these missiles will only be used within Ukrainian sovereign territory and not inside Russia. UK officials have made frequent public statements identifying Crimea as Ukrainian sovereign territory, describing it as “illegally annexed.”
The deployment of the missiles comes as Ukrainian forces prepare to launch a counteroffensive intended to retake Kremlin-held territory in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country still needs “a bit more time” before it launches the counteroffensive, in order to allow some more of the promised Western military aid to arrive in the country.
The UK has previously gone further than the US in the weaponry it has been prepared to send to Ukraine. It was the first ally to announce it was sending modern Western tanks to Ukraine, in January pledging 14 Challenge 2 tanks before the US announced it would contribute M-1 Abrams tanks shortly after.
The US has been cautious over the last year in providing weapons to Ukraine that could help them strike within Russian territory. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said in August that it is the US assessment Ukraine does not “currently require ATACMS to service targets that are directly relevant to the current fight.”
It is clear that the UK is taking a much more aggressive stance than the US in supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russian aggression. With this new long-range missile system, it is now more important than ever for the Western powers to come together and provide Ukraine with the support it needs to end this conflict.