The UK has provided numerous “Storm Shadow” cruise missiles to Ukraine, providing the country with a new long-range attack capability ahead of a widely expected counteroffensive against Russian forces. The Kremlin has threatened a military strike in retaliation to this move. With long-range Storm Shadow missiles in its arsenal and other crucial military aid, Ukraine’s capabilities have been significantly enhanced. The UK transferred Harpoon anti-ship missiles or Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. This gives Ukraine the ability to launch cross-border strikes against Russia which could lead to an escalation of the conflict. Storm Shadow missiles can be launched from the ground, although they are more likely to be placed aboard Ukrainian aircraft. A western missile launched from a Soviet Warplane because Storm Shadows do not require fire control instructions from the launching fighter, they are very simple to integrate into the Ukrainian Air Force’s Soviet-era aircraft.
The UK has provided numerous “Storm Shadow” cruise missiles to Ukraine, providing the country with a new long-range attack capability ahead of a widely expected counteroffensive against Russian forces.
The United Kingdom has broken the long-standing taboo by transferring “a number” of Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles as a “proportionate response” to Russia’s ongoing air strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine. Storm Shadow is officially marketed as having a range “exceeding 250km,” or 155 miles, with some even claiming a maximum range of 250, or even 350, miles. While not as swift as Russia’s Kinzhal airborne ballistic missile, the Storm Shadow’s five-meter-long stealth, AI-driven image-matching terminal guidance system, and bunker-busting two-stage payload set it apart.
Harpoon missiles cost about £1.2 million each and have a maximum range of 240 kilometers. The Storm Shadow missiles cost about £2.2 million and can hit targets up to 560 kilometers away, although modified versions for export have a much shorter range.
Western nations were concerned that Ukraine might utilize long-range missiles to launch politically provocative assaults on Russian land, triggering escalatory response but storm shadows were supplied with assurances from Ukraine that they would only be used for strikes on Russian-occupied parts of the country The real bullseye, though, is Russia’s massive military infrastructure on the Crimean Peninsula, which includes airbases and a large portion of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Given that the UK’s donation of missiles appears to be restricted in quantity, the UK’s Storm Shadow may be more of a political manoeuvre than a military one, similar to when the country gave western-designed main battle tanks.
Storm Shadow’s effectiveness against Russia’s technically superior air defenses will be determined in part by its stealth capabilities. Because the missile’s terminal guidance is based on image matching rather than GPS
Storm Shadow does not rely on input from the carrying aircraft either before or after launch. Instead, it’s pre-programmed on the ground to follow waypoints to the target region autonomously using inertial and GPS navigation typically skimming at just 100-130 feet over the ground to limit radar detectability even more. It flies just below the speed of sound, propelled by a tiny TRI 60-30 turbojet engine, and has a low radar-cross section due to its non-reflective shape.
While Russian air defenses fell short to take down supersonic HIMARS rockets, Storm Shadow is a subsonic cruise missile a type of weapon that Ukraine’s air defense system has itself mastered in shooting down. Storm Shadow’s effectiveness against Russia’s technically superior air defenses will be determined in part by its stealth capabilities. Because the missile’s terminal guidance is based on image matching rather than GPS.
Storm Shadow and similar weapons might be used to attack Russian depots and headquarters since they fall into the convenient precision-strike range of these missiles, which could be deadly if timed to coincide with Ukraine’s projected 2023 counteroffensive. And this time, to avoid the Storm Shadow’s reach, those stores and command centers may have to shift all the way to Russian land. This might pose a particular threat to Russian soldiers in southern Ukraine, which is the furthest from the Russian border.
The potential geopolitical implications United Kingdom providing Ukraine with advanced military equipment like Storm Shadow cruise missiles constitute. Foremost, of which would be Russia’s reaction as Russia considers Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence and has already been involved in a conflict with Ukraine in the form of the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine. If the UK provides advanced military equipment to Ukraine, including cruise missiles, it would likely escalate tensions between Russia and the Western world. Russia views this move as a direct challenge to its interests and security, leading to a heightened response.
Secondly, NATO and Western Response the UK being a member of NATO, an alliance committed to collective defense. If the UK’s transfer to Ukraine with advanced military equipment, is seen as a signal of increased support from NATO for Ukraine’s security. This may further solidify Western support for Ukraine and potentially result in an increase in military aid from other NATO members.
If the UK provides advanced military equipment to Ukraine, including cruise missiles, it would likely escalate tensions between Russia and the Western world. Russia views this move as a direct challenge to its interests and security, leading to a heightened response.
The regional stability and the provision of advanced military equipment to Ukraine has broader implications for regional stability. It might encourage other countries involved in territorial disputes or conflicts to seek similar assistance from Western powers, leading to an arms race or further destabilization in the region.
The diplomatic fallout because of the provision of such advanced weaponry to Ukraine could strain diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia. There could be retaliatory measures taken by Russia, such as diplomatic expulsions, economic sanctions, or the downgrading of bilateral relations.
The impact on peace negotiations could be severe as the conflict in eastern Ukraine has seen attempts at peaceful resolution through negotiations and ceasefires. The provision of advanced military equipment might undermine these peace efforts by signaling to Ukraine that a military solution is being supported, potentially prolonging the conflict.
It is essential to note that the geopolitical fallout resulting from this scenario depends on various factors, including the context, timing, and the specific response of the involved parties. Thus this development is bound to have far reaching geopolitical implications on the security of Europe and beyond.
Asma Khan Durrani is an Islamabad-based expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defence and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47 Mailed @ firstname.lastname@example.org