At the NATO summit in Vilnius, French President Emmanuel Macron announced he had decided to provide Ukraine with “long-range missiles.” These missiles will aid Kyiv’s efforts to degrade Russian logistics and command and control, undermining Russia’s ability to resist advancing Ukrainian forces.
Macron was referring to the SCALP-EG. This is the French version of the Storm Shadow, a low-observable air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) that the United Kingdom provided to Ukraine earlier this year.
Like the Storm Shadow, the SCALP-EG has a 250 km range and carries a powerful tandem BROACH warhead that can defeat hardened targets. It uses an inertial navigation system, GPS, and terrain-mapping for guidance, employing an infrared seeker and automatic target recognition at the terminal phase. After launch, the missile drops to low altitudes to evade detection.
A French military source said some of the missiles had already arrived in Ukraine and are being integrated with Ukrainian warplanes — presumably Su-24 bombers. Macron implied that Kyiv had committed not to strike targets in internationally recognized Russian territory.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which began on June 4, has made only modest progress against a staunch Russian defense. The operation is currently in an attritional phase. Both sides are trying to wear down the enemy’s forces and compel him to commit reserves. At the same time, they are waging a counterbattery duel and targeting each other’s logistics and command and control.
Since receiving the Storm Shadow, Kyiv’s forces have already struck or sabotaged a number of Russian command posts, bridges, and supply depots. Most recently, Ukraine reportedly killed Lieutenant General Oleg Tsakov (and possibly other senior Russian officers) in a Storm Shadow strike in the occupied coastal city of Berdyansk on Tuesday. Tsakov was reportedly serving as deputy commander of Russia’s Southern Military District.
Kyiv will likely need to conduct continual ALCM strikes to cripple Russian logistics in southern Ukraine. For example, a June 22 Storm Shadow strike temporarily disabled the Chonhar road bridge, one of the chokepoints linking Crimea to Kherson Oblast. But by the next day, Russia had established an adjacent pontoon bridge, which Ukraine apparently has yet to strike. Russia subsequently repaired the Chonhar bridge itself, although a Ukrainian military spokesperson cast doubt on its structural integrity.
The French missiles will provide Ukraine with additional capacity for its deep-strike campaign. While it is unclear how many Storm Shadows London provided, the number is likely relatively small given the missile’s high price tag (around $1 million per munition). A French diplomat cited by Reuters said Paris will give Ukraine 50 missiles. That additional capacity will become especially important if Russia manages to improve its defenses against the missile after studying Storm Shadows shot down in Ukraine.
The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) would be even more useful for Ukraine. Modern variants of the ATACMS have a 300 km range. This would allow Kyiv to strike the Kerch Bridge, which Russia uses to supply its forces in southern Ukraine. So far, the Biden administration has refused Ukrainian requests for this system. But the White House appears to be warming to the idea.
In the coming weeks, expect to see more “cotton” — Ukrainian slang for explosions deep in the Russian rear. Time will tell whether Ukraine can leverage these strikes into gains on the battlefield.
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