The much-hyped Ukrainian counter-offensive appeared to be petering out, if not already dead, under the constant Russian bombardment of Ukrainian arms and ammunition stocks; and troop starting points.
For the counterattack to succeed, what happens to the Ukrainian forces should have happened to the Russian forces.
The Russian Air Force has demonstrated discretion and ingenuity with its resources — striking sprawling industrial facilities with Geran-2 suicide drones while using air/sea-launched Kh-101 and Kalibr low-observation missiles for precision strikes.
When there is a need to strike hard, Russian forces attack with Onyx supersonic missiles or Iskander-M semi-ballistic missiles using mobile ground launchers. All the while, Russian “decoy” drones are forcing Ukrainian air defense systems to run out of ammunition.
Facilitate the counterattack with “Storm Shadow” missiles
Determined to weaken Russia through counterattack, the United Kingdom, on May 11, 2023, warned and announced that it would give Ukraine Storm Shadow (literally: storm shadow) cruise missiles with a range of more than 250 km.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament that Britain would donate Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine to help it regain the territories lost to Russia since the start of its invasion!
With the transfer of Storm Shadow, the UK flagrantly crossed Russia’s red line and became the first country to give Ukraine long-range weapons capable of striking targets deep in Russia.
When Kyiv used Storm Shadow for the first time on May 12, 2023, a Ukrainian counterattack seemed imminent.
An analysis was published on May 12, 2023 regarding the potential impact of introducing Storm Shadow missiles and concluded that the Russian anti-stealth radar network is “effective” and will facilitate the interception of many Storm Shadow missiles.
However, like HIMARS missiles and JDAM-ER bombs, some Storm Shadow missiles will pass through Russian defences. Given Storm Shadow’s much greater range, its immunity to electronic warfare, and its more devastating warheads, each Storm Shadow that passes will deal a painful blow.”
The storm turns into a shadow
The analysis proved correct. Two weeks after the launch of the Storm Shadow missiles, Ukraine failed to weaken Russia’s ability to supply its forces, but some of the missiles made it through and struck painful blows, according to Ukrainian sources.
• On May 12, 2023, two Storm Shadow missiles hit a Russian flight school in Luhansk, killing nine pilots and destroying several aircraft.
• On May 14, two Storm Shadow missiles targeted a Russian flight school in Luhansk used by the Russian army.
• On May 26, 2023, Storm Shadow missiles hit a Russian missile depot in Mariupol, causing a massive explosion and fire.
In the same period, the Russian Air Defense Forces shot down Storm Shadow missiles as follows:
On May 15th: 1 missile, May 16th: 7 missiles, May 20th: an unspecified number, May 22nd: an unspecified number, May 26th: 2 missiles.
Certainly, Russian forces played a major role in reducing the destructive potential of the Storm Shadow missiles.
Air defense systems are usually countered by SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) operations and offensive attack or flooding missions. Storm Shadow’s first attack on Ukraine on May 12, 2023 in Luhansk was a well-executed SEAD mission and attack.
The most remarkable feature of the Luhansk offensive was its excellent technical development and coordination, which indicates a very high level of training.
It was reported that Ukraine used two Storm Shadow cruise missiles. The launch of the Storm Shadow missiles by a Ukrainian Su-24MR was apparently preceded by the launch of the ADM-160 decoy missiles that the US supplied to Ukraine, forcing the Russian air defense radars to turn on prematurely and reveal their locations, only to be hit by AGM-88 missiles. HARM fired by a Ukrainian MiG-29.
When Storm Shadow came, Russia’s air defenses were gone!
The use of ADM-160 decoy missiles was the first recorded in the conflict. The United States did not announce the supply of these decoy missiles to Ukraine, which is probably why it was so easy to lure Russian air defense systems into an engagement.