Su-24 and Su-27 can carry a Storm Shadow missile, but not program it
News that Ukraine is set to receive UK-supplied Storm Shadow long-range missiles has undoubtedly sparked a flurry of comments. Again, London is ahead of Washington. ATACMS may be a red line for the US, but Storm Shadow clearly isn’t for the UK.
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Which combat aircraft from Ukraine’s available inventory is capable of using this weapon? It should be evaluated on two indicators – the weight of the rocket and compatibility. If we smooth out the first indicator MiG-29 and Su-25 of the Air Force of Ukraine will not be able to carry this weapon. The maximum payload weight does not allow them.
The rocket weighs nearly 2,900 pounds. What we have observed is that the MiG-29 and Su-25 routinely carry 1,100 pounds of payload. These two combat aircraft are being phased out, but the Su-24 and Su-27 remain. They can carry a Storm Shadow Missile. Each can carry a payload of up to 3,300 pounds.
But can these “workhorses” operate the rocket? In principle, experts say that integration is possible but difficult. How the Su-24 and Su-27’s outdated avionics and sensors will interact with the missile remains a mystery. We have already seen a successful integration in fact. The American anti-radiation missile HARM was successfully integrated with the MiG-29 in the middle of last year.
Of course, if the connection between the aircraft and the missile cannot be made, there is a second programming option. He is on the ground. Yes, the missile allows it to be programmed on the ground. I.e. the target can be set before the aircraft takes off. This means that the planes will simply be the carriers of the weapon. In the air after launch, they cannot direct the missile, nor change its trajectory or the moment of the explosion.
Storm Shadow is not immune to being intercepted. Especially after it’s launched and there’s really no programming from the fighter’s cockpit. But the rocket has its advantages. According to the British, Storm Shadow has developed to strongly counter electronic warfare [EW]. I.e. the missile has EW immunity. This is bad news for the Russian military because as of early 2023, Russian and Western experts confirm that the Russian military has not only advanced in jamming enemy weapons but is using them skillfully.
The Russians will also face another problem – the missile, in addition to being small, has low radar visibility. Russian media say the Russian military has deployed a Niobium radar in Ukraine. It can detect everything from large aircraft to small drones. According to claims among Russian experts, the radar is capable of detecting drones made of composite materials. Could Niobium intercept Storm Shadow? In theory, it is possible because the radar is a composite of three AESA radars in the VHF, UHF, and S/X bands. In practice – we’ll see.
However, the Su-24 and Su-27 have a problem
Knowing all this, we must always think in both directions to understand action and counteraction. In general, the Ukrainian Air Force will receive weapons for deep striking in the rear of the enemy. The weapon is very accurate, with a low radar signature, a powerful warhead, and immunity to EW.
Not only the Niobium radar but also the Su-35 in the air could be a problem for the Ukrainians. And if radar capabilities are still controversial claims, not so with Russian fighter jets. We wrote about a report by the Air Force of Ukraine and the opinion of two Ukrainian pilots that the Su-35 and Russian tactics are a very big problem for Ukrainian fighters.
If the Su-24 or Su-27 are lifted into the air, they immediately light up on Russian radars. They have a great range, let’s not forget. The Ukrainian planes will face the distant Su-35, which with the help of the R-37M will attack the Storm Shadow carrier beyond visual range. And these attacks were successful, according to the admissions of the Ukrainian Air Force.
Let’s not forget that there will most likely be a MiG-31 with an air-to-surface missile high in the sky at that time. This is a double threat because the position of the Ukrainian air defense in the area will be extremely threatened.
About Storm Shadow missile
Storm Shadow is a long-range air-launched cruise missile. It was developed at the beginning of the new millennium and has been in service since 2002. According to information from open sources, one rocket costs $2.5 million.
The rocket weighs 1,300 kg and is just over 5 meters long. Its diameter is 50 cm, and the 450 kg warhead is a BROACH [Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge] type. After launch, the rocket is powered by a Turbomeca Microturbo TRI 60-30 engine. The maximum range of the Storm Shadow reaches 560 km, but the expert variant is up to 250 km.
Depending on the flight height, the missile can reach a maximum speed of 1,000 km/h Mach 0.8–0.95. Its guidance systems include Inertial, GPS, and TERPROM. Terminal guidance using imaging infrared DSMAC.
Britain has long said it would supply modern weapons to Ukraine. The first country decided to give its Challenger 2 tanks, thereby leading the “tank coalition”. It is a little known fact, but according to The War Zone, London gave Storm Shadow on the condition – not to attack Russian territory, but only temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.
Politically, this is a signal to Washington. If Ukraine manages to comply with Britain’s condition, Kyiv will have a partner in the person of London for the next ATACMS supply mobiles for the HIMARS system. Washington has so far not accepted Kyiv’s arguments for such a delivery precisely for the same reason put forward by London – not to attack Russian territory. But if Ukraine shows restraint and respects the London condition, Kyiv has a chance to get ATACMS.
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