Ukrainian armed forces have begun using the British-supplied Brimstone missiles just days after the UK had pledged to supply Ukraine with these deadly weapons, according to the latest evidence from the frontlines.
Images showing remains of Brimstone missiles began doing the rounds on social media as early as May 6, without much information about where they were found or when they were used but considering that the announcement of this weapon was made only recently, it can be assumed that the missiles were used soon after they arrived in Ukraine.
On April 28, James Heappey, Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, confirmed that “hundreds” of Brimstone missiles would be sent to Ukraine, the first of which were slated to arrive in the “next few weeks.”
While some Russian language media reported that the delivery of these missiles was to begin only after May 10.
#Ukraine: ❗️Even sooner than expected, UK-supplied Brimstone missiles are already being used by UA forces in the East.
Russian forces recovered remains of the motor section of a rather early Brimstone 1 (Made in September 2001)- which was modified to be fired from the ground. pic.twitter.com/O7I6pUCyFP
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 6, 2022
However, recent images from Ukraine suggest that the missiles have already been put to use. The remains of the missile seen in the photo appearing on May 6 show that it was manufactured in September 2001 and the temperature limit written on its hull shows that the missile can operate between -46 to +71 degrees Celsius.
Furthermore, experts tracking weapons in Ukraine said that the missile was modified to be fired from the ground and that the Russian Forces recovered the remains of the missile.
Also, as days passed, more images began surfacing, such as on May 8, there were images of an unexploded Brimstone missile circulating the social media, which provided some more details about the weapon.
Reports suggest that the missile was found in Zaporizhzhya Oblast of Ukraine and that it failed to explode and fell before reaching its target. The photos show that the rocket was manufactured in 2004.
The guidance system and warhead of the unexploded missile were most probably manufactured in the US in February, going by what is written on its plate.
The WHD designation, as can be seen in the image, is usually known to be associated with the American warhead fuze designation, and the AAW designation means Anti Air Warfare system.
A solid-fuel rocket engine powers the missile and according to its description, it was manufactured in September 2001 by Alliant Techsystems, Inc., an American aerospace and defense company based in Arlington County, Virginia, US, which does not exist anymore after it ceased operations in 2015.
It was succeeded by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and Vista Outdoor. The HIA designation on the plate is the manufacturer code for Alliant Techsystems, Inc.
The Brimstone Missile
The Brimstone missile, produced by pan-European missile manufacturer MBDA Systems, is available in air-launched, ground-launched, and ship-launched versions. It can be used as an anti-ship weapon or for attacking ground targets, or perhaps even both.
Regardless of the application, each Brimstone is 1.8 meters in length, weighs 50 kg, and has a diameter of 1.8 meters.
It is guided by dual active millimetric-wave radar and semi-active laser, meaning it can be used in adverse weather conditions and at night. There is also an inertial navigation system autopilot to get it to the general target area at extended ranges before it begins searching out its target autonomously.
The warhead is a tandem-shaped charge with different delay and proximity fusing modes.
The air-launched version is said to be capable of hitting targets at between 7 and 25 km and while the maximum range of the surface-launched version is unclear, it can be assumed to be lower than the air-launched version without the benefit of an aircraft’s speed and altitude.
What Brimstone Version Is Ukraine Using?
There was much confusion about what version of the missile will be provided to Ukraine and would it be an anti-ship weapon or for attacking ground targets, or both.
Considering that the war is currently focused in the eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian armed forces are facing the large Russian armored formations, Brimstone could be very useful on this front as its tandem warhead is said to be capable of penetrating all known conventional and reactive armor.
While the Brimstone could also be used as an anti-ship weapon to fend off a possible Russian amphibious assault, perhaps directed against Ukraine’s key port city of Odesa, or elsewhere along the country’s southern coast.
This would provide the Ukrainian military with much-needed capability to salvo-launch precision-guided weapons from the coast that it currently lacks. However, these missiles were only recently added to service and their availability in sufficient numbers is questionable.
Also, the Maritime Brimstone is much more mobile and can be easily concealed, especially when adapted for launch from smaller vehicles.
Apart from an amphibious assault, Russia could even deliver troops into the enemy’s rear areas by making use of the massive Dnieper River and its many tributaries. Russia is reportedly making use of at least one Mangust class patrol boat to launch covert missions behind Ukrainian lines and this is where the Maritime Brimstone could very well be used.
This may be a more likely possibility, as a Russian media report suggests that the remains of the Brimstone missiles found in the Zaporozhye region were fired at the east side of the Dnieper.
Based on the available photographs, the same report also said that these missiles were not launched from ground-based or air-borne launchers, suggesting they might have been ship-launched.
If true, Ukraine would be the first confirmed country to have deployed a ship-launched Brimstone version, as none of the previous customers have used vehicle-mounted or ship-launched Brimstone versions. Instead, they have only relied on air-launched Brimstone.
In October 2021, the UK and Ukraine were in discussions for the Brimstone missiles to be integrated on Ukrainian patrol boats and aircraft; however, military experts talking to EurAsian Times believe that this possibility is doubtful as this is a long and complex process and doing it this time is even more complicated.
That said, as the war progresses, more evidence will emerge of the Brimstone in action, which has been deployed so soon after arriving in Ukraine, thereby offering more details about the version and the intended purpose of the missiles provided to the Ukrainian military.