How does the Storm Shadow cruise missile improve Ukraine's defense against Russian forces?

The British Government confirmed on Thursday the delivery of the Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile to Ukraine. The deployment of the missile coincides with the preparation of the Ukrainian army to start a retaliatory operation aimed at recapturing the eastern and southern territories of the country, currently under the control of the Russian armed forces. 

But what are the combat capabilities of the Storm Shadow missile?

The Storm Shadow is a British, French and Italian low-visibility air-launched cruise missile manufactured by MBDA, a missile development and manufacturing company operating in several European countries and the United States.

Development of the Storm Shadow missile, also known as SCALP EG (Système de Croisière Autonome à Longue Portée – Emploi Général) in France, began in the 1990s. 

It was designed as a long-range missile that could be launched from an aircraft to attack strategic targets, keeping it out of reach of most air defense systems. The missile was developed by Matra and British Aerospace (now MBDA).

Notable for its active combat debut during UK Royal Air Force operations in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Storm Shadow cruise missile boasts an impressive range of approximately 560 km (or 300 nautical miles). This remarkable range allows the missile to target strategic locations from a significant distance, thus safeguarding the launcher aircraft from the range of anti-aircraft defenses.

The missile is currently in service with the air forces of several countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is usually launched from Tornado, Typhoon and Rafale aircraft.

The Storm Shadow cruise missile is an impressive piece of technology, weighing in at a substantial 1,230 kilograms. Its length is 5.10 meters, which shows its large size. It uses a Turbomeca Microturbo TRI 60-30 turbojet propulsion system, propelling it toward its targets with immense speed and precision.

As for its navigation system, it is guided by an INS (Inertial Navigation) system, GPS (Global Positioning System) and Terrain Reference Navigation, which gives it great precision. The warhead, the key part of the missile, is designed for the penetration of explosives, which guarantees its destructive capacity.

 In addition, its range is considerable, exceeding 250 kilometers, which allows it to hit distant targets effectively. The Storm Shadow missile is prepared for each mission with detailed information about the target and its trajectory to reach it. 

Once deployed from the aircraft, the missile relies on its onboard navigation system to follow a predetermined trajectory at low altitudes, receiving continuous updates throughout its flight. It uses an infrared image finder to endlessly compare the actual landscape with pre-stored images until it reaches its target.

The missile comes equipped with a BROACH dual-stage warhead that combines burst and penetration capabilities. The operation of the warhead involves a two-stage process. 

The first stage initiates contact with the target by cutting its surface, paving the way for the second stage. The larger second stage of the warhead then penetrates deep into the target before detonation.