British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has finally confirmed that the long-range Storm Shadow missiles provided to Ukraine have been used, days after the first wreckage of the missile was spotted in Luhansk.
Wallace told Sky News, “All I can say is it is my understanding that it has been used since we announced its deployment to Ukraine, but I’m not going to go into further details.”
Now that it has been officially confirmed that the Ukrainian Air Force is raining down British-sent Storm Shadow long-range missiles on Russian positions, there are reports in local Russian media that attempt to explain how Ukraine is launching these long-range missiles.
On May 15, a few days after Ukraine started using the Storm Shadow missiles, Russia announced its first interception. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that its air defense shot down a Storm Shadow missile for the first time.
A subsequent report published by Izvestia claimed that an active aerial confrontation had unfolded in the skies over the previous three days.
The report further noted that the Storm Shadow missiles are launched by specially modernized Su-24s under the cover of MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters with High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM).
Moreover, it noted that to ensure the safety of its aircraft participating in the mission, the Ukrainian command is actively using false targets in the form of UAVs.
This is in line with EurAsian Times’ previous report detailing that Ukraine was using ADM-168B Miniature Air Launched Decoys (MALDs) to bait and exhaust Russian air defenses that are on the lookout for Storm Shadow and HARMs.
However, it could not be independently confirmed that the Su-24 had been modified to launch the Western Storm Shadow missile. Western munitions, like the AGM-88 HARM and the JDAM-ER, had reportedly been integrated into the Su-27 and the MiG-29 fighter jets instead of the archaic Su-24.
According to the latest claims, the Russian air defense units shot down seven Storm Shadow missiles on May 16.
“During the day, air defense systems intercepted seven Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles, three HARM anti-radar missiles, and seven HIMARS multiple-launch rockets.”
While still coping with the British decision to supply the Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, the Russians are set for another unpleasant surprise as the French government is also reportedly sending the SCALP-EG missile to Ukraine.
Which Ukrainian Fighter Is Firing Storm Shadow?
The Storm Shadow is a fire-and-forget missile. Advanced jets like the Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon are equipped with the missile, which can be programmed before launch.
An infrared (IR) image of the targeted target, a digital terrain map of the path, hostile air defenses along the route, etc., are all included in the code.
When UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace first announced the transfer of Storm Shadow missiles, some military experts said it was highly doubtful that the Storm Shadow could properly integrate with aircraft used by the Ukrainian Air Force, such as the Su-24, Su-25, or MiG-29.
With several Storm Shadow missiles fired from Soviet-era military jets, at least that doubt has been eliminated. Moreover, there were reports in 2022 that the Su-24 would be modified to fire the Storm Shadow missile, lending some credence to the recent claims made by Izvestia.
Tristan Sauer, aerospace and defense analyst at GlobalData, was quoted saying, “The main concerns would likely revolve around attachment to weapon pylons and the firing mechanism. Reports emerged in 2022 that a Ukrainian Su-24M was being modified to fire Storm Shadow. In light of the recent announcement, we can assume that the aircraft provided a testbed for integrating additional Su-24M bombers and possibly even other aircraft, such as the MiG-29 or Su-27.”
Having said that, after a Su-27 of the Ukrainian Air Force was reportedly shot down in the Donetsk region while conducting a mission on the frontlines, military watchers speculated that the aircraft could have been firing the Storm Shadow missile. However, these reports were never verified.
The proposition becomes murkier with Izvestia’s claims about the Su-27 and MiG-29 providing cover to the Su-24 launching Storm Shadow missiles.
The RuMoD reported that on May 12, Ukraine attacked the Polipak and Milam enterprises in Luhansk using Storm Shadow. The Su-24 bomber attacking the city and the MiG-29 fighter covering it was shot down by Russian fighters.
Some Russian officials have also explained why the Storm Shadow missiles were targeting Luhansk. According to Rodion Miroshnik, a former ambassador of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) to Moscow, the Ukrainian military decided to bombard Luhansk to demonstrate the effectiveness of the long-range missiles that Britain provided to Kyiv.
“I believe this can be notionally called demonstrative performance in global politics. That is, Luhansk has become a place against which strikes have been purposefully delivered to demonstrate the capabilities of the long-range missiles transferred by the Britons,” the former LPR ambassador said in a live broadcast on the Soloviev Live television channel.