Ukrainian Defense Minister Olexii Reznikov recently released a photo of a modified Ukrainian Su-24 Fencer aircraft fitted with the British Storm Shadow missile. In what may be the first direct admission, a modified Fencer is being used as a missile carrier for newly acquired long-range missiles.
After meeting with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Reznikov tweeted three images and a lengthy caption thanking Britain for supporting Ukraine. In one image, the two leaders are seen shaking hands, while in another, Wallace gives a “thumbs up.”
The most intriguing part of the tweet is between these two images: a photo of a Su-24 equipped with a Storm Shadow missile that was given to Wallace for his signature.
In this particular image, the Storm Shadow is located under the fixed-wing “glove” pylon to the aircraft’s right. Wallace autographed the photo with: “To all the brave ‘few’ who risk everything for the glory of Ukraine.”
As soon as the image was published, it went viral on the Internet, arousing the interest of military observers. The official Ukraine Weapon Tracker Twitter account posted a high-resolution version of the same image, shedding more light on the details of the aircraft loaded with Storm Shadow missiles.
“We obtained the first HQ image of the Storm Shadow missile used by the Ukrainian Air Force, carried by the Su-24MR “Yellow 60″ of the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade. This aircraft, refurbished in 2018, was originally a reconnaissance model – until recently in limited use,” the group said in a tweet.
Despite being an archaic Soviet warplane, the Su-24 is still a powerful long-range attack aircraft with precision strike capability. The Su-24MR (Fencer-E) is a specialized derivative for tactical reconnaissance that entered service four decades ago in 1983.
The aircraft appears to have been modified to carry the Storm Shadow, although details of the modification have not been made public by the Ukrainian Air Force.
It is not clear if the image shows a Su-24 taking off on a mission with a Storm Shadow, although the landing gear appears to have been retracted extremely quickly, so the image could be showing a low-altitude flyby. On previous occasions, some images showing the aircraft flying low over Donbas have appeared on the Internet.
Claims by the Russian media that the Storm Shadow missiles were launched by specially modernized Su-24 aircraft in the shelter of MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters with high-velocity anti-radiation missiles (HARM) had previously been reported.
A number of Western munitions, including the US-supplied AGM-88 HARM and JDAM-ER, had reportedly been integrated into Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters rather than the archaic Su-24. Military experts and the media have claimed that even the Su-27 Flanker could be equipped with the Storm Shadow missile.
Ukrainian MiG-29 and Su-25 attack jets are not equipped to carry the Storm Shadow, which weighs about 2,900 pounds. These two aircraft carry weapons that weigh no more than 1,100 pounds each, leaving the Su-24 and Su-27 as the only carrier options.
The Su-24 can carry weapons of more than 3,300 pounds each, while the larger Fencer and Flanker have much higher payloads.
The shadows of the storm lash the Russian troops.
On May 24, Ukrainian Defense Minister Olexii Reznikov officially admitted that the military successfully uses Storm Shadow missiles.
“We had the chance to shake hands with pilots who were trained in the UK and who are already successfully using the Storm Shadow weapon,” the minister stated.
This admission comes a week after a similar acknowledgment by the British Defense Secretary. “All I can confirm is that it’s been used successfully, that’s the information I’ve received from the Ukrainians, and I’m pleased that it’s helping them defend their country,” Wallace told CNN’s Jim Sciutto in an exclusive interview on “NewsCentral.
The first evidence of the use of Storm Shadow appeared in the Luhansk region, days after Wallace first confirmed delivery of the missile, the longest-range munition in the Ukrainian arsenal.
Russia, for its part, continues to claim that all Storm Shadow missiles fired at its positions are intercepted and shot down.
However, military experts believe that this missile poses another major challenge for Russian troops who had to learn and deal with the HIMARS introduced to the battlefield last year.
Storm Shadow’s goal is believed to be to push the Russians further back into the lines as troops advance in their long-awaited counter-offensive. However, an Azeri military expert, Agil Rustamzade, stated in an interview given to NV on May 23 that Ukraine needed at least 500 Storm Shadow missiles to exhaust Russia.
Emboldened by the success of the Storm Shadows in Ukraine, France has also committed to handing over its SCALP-EG missiles. And not only that, but a German lawyer has also advocated the transfer of German Taurus SPED 350 long-range missiles to Ukraine to bolster its long-range strike capability.