A look at the Storm Shadow cruise missile Great Britain has announced it will provide Ukraine.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

May 12, 2023

4 Min Read
MBDA SCALP EG cruise missile
An MBDA SCALP EG cruise missile mounts beneath the wing of a French Rafale jet. This is the French version of the British Storm Shadow.MBDA Missile Systems

After a year of struggling with the range of its artillery and missiles in its bid to fend off Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s military is getting a longer reach with the British announcement that it will supply Storm Shadow cruise missiles to the embattled country. The missile has a rated range of more than 250 kilometers (156 miles). The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Missile Defense Project reports its actual range to be 400 km. (250 miles).

Manufactured by Matra BAe Dynamics (MBDA) Missile Systems, the Storm Shadow is the British variant of a family of cruise missiles also used by France, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, where its alternate names include APACHE AP, SCALP EG, SCALP Naval, and Black Shaheen. MBDA is a defense joint venture of the Airbus Group (37.5 percent), BAE Systems (37.5 percent), and Leonardo (25 percent). While Storm Shadow is an air-launched cruise missile, those variants for other countries include ship- and submarine-launched versions.

APACHE stands for Arme Propulsée À CHarges Éjectables, a 1983 French project to develop an anti-runway cruise missile equipped with submunitions. Initially, Germany was a partner, but withdrew in 1988, according to CSIS. The Systeme de Croisiere conventionale Autonome a Longue Portee (SCALP EG) was developed subsequently to carry penetrating warheads. A 1995 UK contract produced the Storm Shadow version for the British military. It differs from the SCALP EG only in its aircraft interface and software.

The aircraft that have delivered the Storm Shadow so far include the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, Mirage 2000, and Tornado, so it will apparently add a new aircraft type after been adapted to planes in the Ukrainian inventory.

Like so many weapon systems, the Storm Shadow and its variants have seen operational use in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Storm Shadow is 5.1 meters (16’ 8”) long, weighs 1,300 kilograms (2,860 lbs.), and carries a 400 kg. (880 lb.) high explosive Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge (BROACH) warhead from BAE Systems. According to ArmedForces.co.uk, the BROACH warhead features an initial penetrating charge to clear soil or enter a bunker, then a variable delay fuse to control detonation of the main warhead.

It is powered at sub-sonic Mach 0.8 speed by a Safran Aircraft Engines TR60-30 turbojet engine and is guided by INS, GPS, and terrain reference navigation. In flight, the missile skims the terrain at 150 meters to avoid detection, dipping to just 50 meters of altitude approaching the target. ArmedForces.co.uk describes its action in the final phase of attack: “Close to the target, the missile bunts, climbing to an altitude intended to achieve the best probability of target identification and penetration. During the bunt, the nose cone is jettisoned to allow a high-resolution infrared camera to observe the target area (the bunt enlarges the field of vision).”

Its automatic target recognition system matches the target image with a stored picture to ensure a precision strike. Its warhead detonation options include air burst, impact, and penetrative modes. If the target recognition system cannot confirm the target and there is a concern for collateral damage, the missile flies to a crash point rather than striking an unintended target.

MBDA touts this missile’s ability to operate day and night and in all weather, reaching targets such as hardened bunkers and key infrastructure. The Financial Times reported Ukraine’s defense minister describing what those targets might be. “Our partners know very well why we need them: to be able to reduce the enemy’s offensive potential by destroying their ammunition depots, command and control centers, and logistics chains on the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory.”

In 2017, MBDA stated that nearly 3,000 Storm Shadow/SCALP air-launched missiles had been delivered to customers and that nearly 200 had been deployed. The company launched a refurbishment program that same year that delivered upgraded missiles to customers starting in 2020. The aim of the upgrade was to “prolong the operational superiority of the weapon against the anticipated evolving threat well into next decade.”

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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