British Storm Shadow missiles have slipped past Syria’s Russian air defence. Can we expect the same results in Ukraine?

Since Russia's air defence systems are more modern than those Syria currently possesses, they may be able to counter Storm Shadow missile.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

On May 11, 2023, British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace announced in the House of Commons of the British Parliament that the UK had supplied Ukraine with several MBDA Storm Shadow aircraft cruise missiles as a long-range precision strike weapon.

It became apparent in December of 2022 that this missile could be supplied. The United Kingdom is prepared to provide Ukraine with long-range weaponry if Russia maintains its campaign of strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure, British Foreign Secretary Ben Wallace told reporters in London on December 15, 2022. He said Storm Shadow missiles would greatly enhance Ukraine’s capabilities if offered. Assuring them that Britain had no plans to attack Russia with the missile, he said, “Our job is to help Ukraine defend itself.”

Rumour has it that in November 2022, one of the few surviving Su-24 ground attack aircraft from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade (Starokonstantinov) flew through the Polish border, despite constant Russian airstrikes. Military Monitoring,” a magazine, speculates that it made its way to the PZL state aviation company in Mielec because of its proximity to the Rzeszow airfield, which NATO has long used as a transhipment point for the delivery of military supplies to Ukraine from all over the world. 

The Ukrainian plane’s cockpit and weapons control system was required to be rebuilt quickly. In addition, a new suspension point under the fuselage was to be fabricated so a single Storm Shadow, about 1.5 tonnes and over 5 metres in length, could be hung on it. If the Polish engineers had worked on it quickly, the plane would have by now flown and tested.     

What is the Storm Shadow Missile, the newest “wonder weapon” for Ukraine?

Storm Shadow is the name of a tactical long-range cruise missile for French and British aircraft that MBDA Missile Systems made.

MBDA Missile Systems describes the Storm Shadow as a “deep strike weapon” capable of “working day and night in all weather” and outfitted with a sophisticated targeting system.

According to the MBDA website, the missile descends to flight altitude after launch while following the terrain to avoid detection. As it approaches a target, its airborne infrared seeker compares the target’s image to a previously stored image to ensure accurate engagement with minimal collateral damage.

The “British” version can fly 250 kilometres at a time. The “French” version called SCALP-EG is a bit more capable. It can travel twice as far, up to 500 kilometres.

In both forms, the missile is made to hit different targets with high accuracy while flying at about 1,000 km/h and as low as 30–40 metres above the ground. This is made possible by the GPS guidance system and altimeter used in the rocket.

The most important thing is that enemy air defences can’t see it. How does the design’s special look come about? In tests done in 2000, Storm Shadow hit a target 300 kilometres away with an error of less than half a metre, even though it was invisible to radars for almost the whole journey.

The British government put out a request for proposals through the International Fund for Ukraine earlier this month. According to the notice, the UK is looking for expressions of interest in supplying long-range missiles by May 4 and will contact any interested parties one month later. Specifications for “missiles or rockets with a range of 100-300 km; land, sea, or air-launched; with a payload of 20-490 kg” were outlined in the announcement.

Given Russian made Air Defence a slip?

In 2018, Storm Shadow was used in Syria. As per some accounts, Syrian anti-aircraft gunners mostly use Russian weapons and military gear and didn’t hit any of the 12 Shadow Storms fired that day. It is also important to know that the Syrian air defence crews are trained on the Russian pattern.

However, TASS quotes a military expert stating that some Storm Shadows were shot down, and some could not survive the electronic warfare systems. The Syrians used 2K12 Kub, S-125, S-200 and Buk systems to engage them. 

Can the Russians tackle Storm Shadow?

Since Russia’s air defence systems are more modern than those Syria currently possesses, they may be able to counter Storm Shadow missile.


These missiles have an extremely low radar cross-section (RCS), on the order of 0.01-0.03 square metres, and an exceptionally low altitude flight path profile, 30-50 m, when operating in terrain envelope mode. Because of the RCS, the detection range of the missile by AWACS A-50U aircraft and the N035 Irbis-E airborne radar installed on Su-35S fighters will be limited to about 80-120 kilometres. Because of this, it will be necessary to conduct regular patrols of both A-50U and Su-35C in the directions of the expected flight paths of Storm Shadow.


Medium-range anti-aircraft missile systems, the S-350 Vityaz and S-300V4 are optimised to intercept fast, low-flying cruise missiles. According to the Russians, each S-350 is almost certain to intercept almost any cruise missile between 15 and 60 kilometres away. Furthermore, it can simultaneously fire at up to 16 targets. After deployment by its personnel, the highly automated system can operate in automatic mode.

The S-350 is capable of providing independent air defence and can also function as a second-tier Air Defence system to the S-400 Triumf, the other air defence system that can deal with Storm Shadow missiles. Triumf can increase the density of anti-aircraft fire against an incoming air target. 

One cannot disregard the Buk-M3SA Air Defence System. Recent software updates to the Buk-M2ME system have made it capable of shooting down HIMARS. The Russians even said that they had brought down the 155 mm Excalibur ammunition, something the United States once claimed was impossible. Because of the effects of the radio horizon, the S-300 and S-400 systems will only have an intercepting range of approximately 40 to 45 km.

The Russian Electronic Warfare (EW) systems have caused devastation in Ukraine and even misled JDAMS. These EW systems are anticipated to impede Storm Shadow missiles as well.  


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