Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Stealth Missiles For Ukraine? After AGM-88 HARMs, Will West Equip Kyiv With ‘Deadly’ Storm Shadow Missiles

Speculations are rife in certain sections of Russian media that the Ukrainian Air Force might soon sport the ‘super lethal’ Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile (ALCM).

According to speculative reports, the British-French weapon, developed by MBDA, would be fused with Ukraine’s Sukhoi Su-24M fighter bombers by Polish engineers, who are awaiting the imminent arrival of the jets.

The claims, however, could not be independently verified.

The fusion will make the Storm Shadow the second western missile mated with Soviet-origin fighter jets. In the past, the American AGM-88 High Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) was successfully integrated with Soviet-origin MiG-29 fighters to target Russian air defense sites and radars.

storm-shadow

The missile, however, did not see much success, as previously analyzed by the EurAsian Times. The Russians found a way around and shot down many HARMs.

Will Su-24 Fencer Get The Storm Shadow?

One report claimed – “Poland is the integrator country that has undertaken the mission to field the Storm Shadow.” However, the report added that only one Su-24 fighter would be equipped, from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade, given the high price of the missile ($1.4 million per unit).

Another report said that Western experts focus on the possibility of integrating the Storm Shadow on the Su-24M, for which the singular jet would be sent to Poland. Military Monitoring named three military aviation factories in Poland where the integration is likely to occur.

These are the WZL military plants in Warsaw and Bydgoszcz, or the PZL plant in Mielec, which were also involved in fusing the AGM-88 with the MiG-29. Rybar, a popular channel on Telegram, posted an illustration of the Su-24, the Storm Shadow, and technical information about the latter.

On the other hand, the Su-24 (Fencer) is a Soviet-era jet bomber with variable geometry or swing wings, where the main wings can retract to the front and back, regulating airflow around the aircraft.

Ukraine Su-24
A Ukrainian Su-24 (Pinterest)

It has a maximum speed of 1,550 kilometers per hour, a range of over 3,000 kilometers, and can fly up to 36,000 feet with a maximum rate of climb of 29,527 feet per minute. The jet is powered by two Saturn/Lyulka AL-21F-3A after-burning turbojets. The fuselage’s integral tanks hold the fuel.

The upgraded Su-24M (Fencer-D) is a far more capable aircraft that entered service in 1986 with newer avionics, an Orion-A forward-looking attack, and terrain-following radars. It also had a Kaira 24 laser and TV sighting system, which allowed it to fire Precision Guided Munitions (PGM).

Game-Changer Missiles That Can Hit Russia

Storm Shadow can destroy bunkers, hardened infrastructure, and other moving or fixed targets. These include command and control centers, airfields, ports, and power stations. The missile’s navigation system combines Inertial Navigation Systems, Satellite Navigation (GPS), and Terrain Referencing.

The French version is called the SCALP, also used by the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) own Rafale fighters. The missile is over five meters long, 63 cm wide, and weighs around 1,300 kilograms with a 450-kilogram heavy warhead.

A turbojet engine powers the missile, providing a range of 250-300 kilometers and a top speed of up to 1,000 kilometers per hour. The missile has a blast/penetrator-like warhead.

Other fighters like the Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, and Mirage-2000 can also fire the Storm Shadow/SCALP.

The missile can be programmed before launch, giving it a ‘fire-and-forget’ capability. The launching plane can turn around and fly away before it can be tracked by the enemy’s surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems.

Using satellite navigation systems and terrain mapping, it semi-autonomously guides itself to the target area on a low-flight path.

Expert Speak

Former IAF Jaguar pilot Vijainder K. Thakur said Poland had already completed the integration. Asked what changes would be needed to be made on the Su-24’s systems to be compatible with the Storm Shadow, Thakur said it is the pylon on which the missile is carried that would require altering.

“This could be likely through the use of an adapter. Also, the flight and weapons computer would need to be programmed to display launch parameters and cues and send signals to and from the weapons,” Thakur added.

He added, being a stealth missile, Russian AD systems will have to use optical targeting, as they have effectively done with the HARM. “There will be some impact (on the battlefield),” he explained.

For now, these are mere speculations that are storming the Russian media. One must not forget there were speculations that the US could provide HARMs to Ukraine, which turned out true. Even netizens had speculated the launch of Bulava missiles, which the Russian Navy fired yesterday.

Will Ukraine get the stealth missiles is to be seen, but as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire!

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