UK Secretary of Defence Reveals Italian Supply of Storm Shadow Missiles to Ukraine

Storm Shadow Italy
A Tornado of the Italian Air Force carrying two Storm Shadows missiles. On the bottom right, the Storm Shadow missile (Image credit: The Aviationist, using Italian Air Force and Eurofighter images)

UK’s Secretary of Defence unveiled that Italy, along with France and the UK, has supplied Storm Shadow/SCALP EG cruise missiles to Kyiv, and urged Germany to provide Taurus missiles. This is the first time Italy is said to be among the nations supplying this type of missile to Ukraine.

“I do think the Storm Shadow has been an extraordinary weapon,” said UK’s Secretary of Defence Grant Shapps during a recent visit to the MBDA production site where the Storm Shadow cruise missiles are assembled, according to The Times. “It’s the UK, France and Italy positioning those weapons for use, particularly in Crimea. These weapons are making a very significant difference.”

This is the first time Italy is said to be among the nations supplying this type of missile to Ukraine: the Italian government has not officially announced the transfer, keeping the usual “low profile” when it deals with sensitive matters like weapons donations or procurements.

At the end of March the Italian Minister of Defense, Guido Crosetto said the value of the authorized 2023 exports to Kyiv had reached 417 million Euro. While the Parliament approved the decree which extended the authorization for the transfer of military vehicles, materials and equipment to Ukraine throughout 2024, the exact list of weapons is classified, even if most of the equipment supplied by Rome was made known by the Kyiv authorities or by the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself.

We have no reason to believe Shapps made a gross mistake mentioning Italy among the suppliers of the Storm Shadow, although this is still a possibility. Anyway, we’ll see whether the Italian MOD will confirm, deny or simply not comment the supply in the next few days.

The Storm Shadow missile

The MBDA Storm Shadow missile is a stealthy weapon weighing 1,300 kg and measuring over 5 meters in length. It is specifically designed for attacking heavily fortified and valuable targets from stand-off distance, ensuring aircraft and crews remain out of harm’s way even in high-threat environments and adverse weather conditions. The missile was first used in combat during the 2011 Libya Air War by RAF and Italian Tornado jets.

Publicly available information indicates that the Storm Shadow is equipped with a 450 kg conventional warhead and boasts an impressive range exceeding 250 km. The extended reach of the Storm Shadow missile provides the Ukrainian military with enhanced operational flexibility and the capability to engage targets at far greater distances than previously possible.

Italian Tornado carrying the Storm Shadow missile. (Italian Air Force)

Italy has procured the Storm Shadow in 1999, and since then, the Italian Air Force has received about 200 Storm Shadow missiles, that the service has extensively used during Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011, with the Tornado IDS being, at that time, the launch platform. Each missile costs approximately 2.6 million Euro (about 3M USD).

The Italian Storm Shadows are used by the Tornado IDS, although the missile is also integrated with the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In Ukraine, the Storm Shadows missiles are carried in combat by the Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 Fencer.

Su-24 Storm Shadow
The photo signed by the UK’s Secretary of Defence showing a Su-24 armed with Storm Shadow missiles. (Photo: Ukraine’s Minister of Defence via @UAWeapons on Twitter, edited by The Aviationist)

The Storm Shadow missile, developed by MBDA, is a formidable precision-guided munition designed for striking high-value targets with exceptional accuracy and stand-off capability. This weapon, known for its stealthy profile and advanced navigation system, offers a robust solution for engaging hardened and well-protected targets while minimizing the risk to aircraft and crews.

A RAF Typhoon FGR4 departs with 2x Storm Shadows. (Image credit: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Compared to other similar weapons like the Scalp EG and the Taurus missile, the Storm Shadow stands out for its unique combination of range, precision, and payload capacity.

The SCALP EG (Système de Croisière Autonome à Longue Portée – Emploi Général / Long Range Autonomous Cruise Missile System – General Purpose) is the French variant of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile, which has been in use in Ukraine since May 2023. Just like the Storm Shadow, the SCALP EG is carried by the Fencer by using modified Tornado pylons.

Use in combat in Ukraine

Russia alleged that Ukraine employed Storm Shadow missiles to target industrial sites in Luhansk on May 13, 2023, shortly after the missiles’ delivery was announced. According to reports from Russian media, these cruise missiles were launched from Su-24s, supported by MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters equipped with AGM-88 HARMs. Ukrainian forces also utilized UAVs and ADM-160 MALD decoys to distract Russian air defenses and safeguard the aircraft and ordnance from interception.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov claimed in late May that the missiles had a perfect hit rate, although Russia’s Defense Ministry asserted that they had intercepted some.

In a significant incident on June 12, 2023, a Storm Shadow strike led to the death of Major General Sergey Goryachev in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, then Chief of Staff of the 35th Combined Arms Army. Subsequently, on June 22, a Storm Shadow missile targeted the Chonhar road bridge linking Crimea with Kherson Oblast, disrupting Russian logistics. A Storm Shadow missile crashed mostly intact in Zaporizhzhia in early July, with TASS reporting that Russian forces shot it down and retrieved the wreckage to study the missile’s design for countermeasures.

On July 9, 2023, a Storm Shadow/SCALP missile was intercepted by Russian air defense and later recovered. Another significant strike occurred on July 29, 2023, when a Storm Shadow or SCALP missile hit the Chongar Strait railway bridge between occupied Crimea and Kherson Oblast. On Sept. 13, 2023, similar missiles targeted Sevastopol port, causing severe damage to the Rostov na Donu submarine and reportedly irreparable damage to the Ropucha-class landing ship Minsk.

Further strikes with Storm Shadow and/or SCALP missiles occurred on Sept. 22, 2023, hitting the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol. Ukrainian military sources claimed that the attack targeted a meeting of Russian Navy leadership, resulting in casualties including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Lastly, on December 26, 2023, two Storm Shadow or SCALP missiles were believed to have targeted the Russian-occupied port of Feodosia, damaging the Russian landing ship Novocherkassk and leaving it ablaze.

A message to Germany

In the same interview with the Times, Shapps sent also a message to Germany, which has decided against supplying its Taurus cruise missiles—comparable to the Storm Shadow—to Ukraine due to logistical concerns and the potential for escalating the conflict.

Shapps is adamant that they should reconsider. “France, Britain, and Italy have all shown that the Taurus, Storm Shadow, or Scalp [another iteration of the cruise missile] are highly effective. While they’re in limited supply, Germany has many available. Therefore, yes, they should absolutely be provided. It would clearly make a significant impact.”

The Taurus KEPD 350 is a German/Swedish missile that is manufactured by Taurus Systems GmbH, a partnership between MBDA Germany and Saab Dynamics. The missile has characteristics similar to the Storm Shadow, with a range of +500 kilometres (300 mi), and a speed of Mach 0.8-0.9.

A Spanish EF-18 carrying an inert Taurus missile. (Image credit: SpAF)
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.