Storm Shadow Is Good News, But ….


It was good news for Ukraine when UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the British government was sending “some” of its air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles to the UkrAF.

We know that the UK has roughly 800 of these, Britain has perhaps donated between 50 – 100 with the promise of more later. The Storm Shadows will go some way to enhance Ukraine’s long range precision strike capability. The missile carries a hefty 450 kg warhead and has  a stated range of 250 kilometres.

Storm Shadow brings two benefits for the Ukrainians. The first is that they can now attack their enemy’s forces far to the rear. The Kerch Bridge is an obvious target, as is the Russian Black Seas Fleet in Sevastopol. All of Crimea is now within range.

The second is that Ukraine’s attack aircraft will be protected by its stand-off capability. Russia’s jets have had an advantage over Ukraine’s thanks to their longer range air-to-air missiles. Ukrainian aircraft have been in danger of being shot down without the means to retaliate.

But now Ukrainian jets have an accurate cruise missile that they can fire whilst remaining relatively safe. Storm Shadow itself is low-observable and optimised to penetrate air defences with a reduced chance of being intercepted or jammed itself.

But Storm Shadow isn’t the answer to the maiden’s prayer. It cannot capture and hold ground. Capturing and holding ground is what is required for the Ukrainians to restore their territorial integrity, and you can’t do that my firing missiles at it alone.

To take ground requires a carefully coordinated, combined arms operation a host of specialities working together to defeat the enemy. In the end, of course, it is usually the infantry who have to go in and winkle the opposition out, but they do so supported by all the other arms.

What Zelensky really needs is many more Challengers 2s/Leo2s/M1A1s tanks, more infantry fighting vehicles, more artillery pieces, more air defence systems and much, much more ammunition. Plus, of course, fast jets like the US F-16s or the Swedish Gripen. Without them success cannot be assured.

There is still a marked reluctance among western leaders, in the USA in particular, to provide Ukraine with the support it needs to finish the job. It’s time for the west to stop pussyfooting around. Give Zelensky what he’s asking for, and give it to him now.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

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