Can the long-range missiles promised to kyiv be a game-changer?

This is a first since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. London will supply long-range Storm Shadow missiles, allowing the Ukrainian army to reach distant targets. What are they for ? What damage can they cause? Above all, at a time when a Kiev counter-offensive is being prepared, can these new weapons be a game-changer on the ground? “No weapon can take back a territory, but it is an arsenal that is becoming denser”, answers 20 minutes Michel Goya, former naval colonel, historian and strategist.

What is a long range missile?

Officially, these cruise missiles have a range of over 250 kilometers, more than any other weapons supplied to kyiv by Western countries. But in reality, “it may be double”, explains Michel Goya. These Storm Shadows have about the same power as the ones that Russia has and throws at Ukrainian cities. However, they have the advantage of being “stealthy, difficult to discern on radar and therefore difficult to intercept”, he adds.

Weighing around 1.3 tons, these European missiles are heavy and launched from airplanes. It will then be necessary for the Ukrainian army to adapt its devices in order to be able to use them. “It’s not yet done technically,” warns Michel Goya. Relatively old, they have already been used in particular by France in various conflicts, such as in Libya in 2011, against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or against Syrian army sites after a chemical attack in 2018.

What can they change on the ground?

Can this new acquisition by the Ukrainian army enable it to regain territory? “That’s not enough,” tempers Michel Goya. This will depend on when these missiles will be delivered, but also on their quantity. “If the Ukrainians get hundreds of them, it can do very great damage to Russian bases, infrastructure, bridges, depots… It’s an important help”, develops the historian. Especially if they are provided early enough to enter into the counter-offensive strategy announced for weeks by kyiv.

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“These are very powerful and very effective missiles,” insists Michel Goya. “It’s a real qualitative leap”, abounds the historian. These missiles can reach very distant targets, even as far as Crimea, and hit all Russian airbases near the Ukrainian border.

Should we fear an escalation of the conflict?

This is why, until now, Kiev’s other Western supporters, led by the United States, have remained hesitant to the idea of ​​supplying this type of weapon, fearing an escalation of the conflict and Russian reprisals. Moscow had already issued threats after the delivery of heavy tanks by many European countries and the United States, but nothing really happened. For long-range missiles, “it is therefore a bit of a test of the Russian reaction”, further analyzes Michel Goya.

Concerning the tanks, the British were already the first to take the plunge, other countries had then followed the approach. “Nothing would prohibit sending other projectiles, especially if the Russians do not react,” said the historian.

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