War in Ukraine: three questions about the delivery of long-range Scalp missiles by France

He sees a new “message of support for Ukraine”. Emmanuel Macron announced, Tuesday, July 11, the delivery by France of long-range Scalp missiles intended for the Ukrainian army, “allowing deep strikes” Russian lines. “The first missiles were delivered at the same time as our president announced it”, said a French military source to AFP. Franceinfo deciphers the underside of this announcement, which raises concerns about the use of these weapons.

1What do we know about these missiles?

These cruise missiles, called Scalp by the French army and Storm Shadow by the British army, are jointly developed by the United Kingdom and France. Launched by aircraft from the air, they can be fired from greater distances than bombs, allowing triggering from safe airspace. Difficult to detect, they have a range of more than 250 km, more than any other weapons supplied to kyiv by Western countries. These missiles are renowned for their high accuracy and can be used against “hard targets” such as bunkers and buried structures.

Usually fired from Western aircraft such as Rafale, Mirage, Eurofighter or Tornado, Scalp missiles can be integrated into older generation Russian-made aircraft, as will be the case in Ukraine. The main unknown relates to the number of ammunition supplied by Paris. The stocks of the French army are estimated at a few hundred, according to different sources, for a unit price of 850,000 euros, according to the French Institute of International Relations. “The number of missiles delivered is quite significant, but it will preserve French stocks far above the capacities we need”assured AFP a French military source.

2What effect can these deliveries have on the conflict?

Difficult to speak of a turning point, because the United Kingdom has already started, in the spring, to send Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine. The French deliveries therefore only reinforce Ukrainian capacities to reach areas controlled by Russian forces in the East. In this war, the front of which has remained generally stable since the winter, long-range missiles make it possible to reach objectives well beyond the front line, where artillery – and in particular the French Caesar guns – is not enough. more. “It is essential for Ukrainian forces to disrupt logistics as well as Russian command and control”explains Ivan Klyszcz, researcher at the International Center for Defense and Security, in Estonia.

This missile is really useful for hitting a target with very high added value”defends on BlazeTrends General Jérôme Pellistrandi, editor-in-chief of the review National Defense. “You should know that the front is three or four kilometers wide. What is important is to be able to hit what is behind, for example a logistics depot which will be a hundred kilometers away, installations or Russian military sites”says the expert.

“We give the means to the Ukrainians to be able to inflict substantial losses on the Russian military forces to force Moscow to open a discussion.”

Jérôme Pellistrandi, General

at BlazeTrends

For its part, Russia claims that such deliveries “cannot influence the course of events”. “They can only aggravate the fate of the kyiv regime”said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday. “This decision is a mistake with serious consequences for the Ukrainian side, because, naturally, it will force us to take countermeasures”he promised, in usual rhetoric when announcing Western deliveries.

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3Why are these deliveries criticized?

kyiv had been asking for these missiles for a long time, but Westerners were very hesitant. “Western refusal to supply long-range missiles was based on fear that Ukraine might strike beyond occupied Ukrainian territories, into Russia itself, thereby escalating the conflict substantially.”, reported the American think tank Soufan Center, in May, after the announcement of British deliveries. With these missiles, the headquarters of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, installed in Sevastopol, in Crimea, is now within range of fire of the Ukrainians, as well as several Russian cities near the border.

This reluctance was relayed on Tuesday, on the right and on the far right of the political spectrum in France. “Delivering long-range missiles seems to me to be part of an escalation”, told BlazeTrends the president of the group Les Républicains in the National Assembly, Olivier Marleix. On TwitterSenator LR Alain Houpert saw in it an element of a “dangerous turn for the world (…) on the way to total war”. “France must not become a co-belligerent”added the deputy Rassemblement national Laurent Jacobelli.

“These transfers increase the risk of finding ourselves embroiled in an open conflict.”

Laurent Jacobelli, RN deputy for Moselle

in a press release

While the United States continues to refuse the Ukrainian request for long-range ATACMS tactical missiles, Emmanuel Macron says that these deliveries must only “allow Ukraine to defend its territory”, thus implicitly excluding any use to strike Russia. Ukraine provided for these missiles, as for the other Western weapons delivered, “guarantees of use within its internationally recognized borders”according to a French military source quoted by AFP.

Ukrainians know they have to respect these red lines”says General Jérôme Pellistrandi. “We see that whenever something happens in Russia, it is never Western weapons that are used. They are Ukrainian drones, made in Ukraine. It is part of this relationship of trust (with Westerners).”

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