The UK is to send 120 armoured vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems to Ukraine, Downing Street announced Saturday.
After Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid an in-person visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he posted on Twitter that his visit to Kyiv was “a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine” and announced a new package of financial and military aid. “Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,” the UK PM said in a statement. Meanwhile he praised Zelensky’s “resolute leadership” and the “invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people,” adding that the UK “stands unwaveringly with them in this ongoing fight … We are in it for the long run.”
This is in addition to the £100 million worth of high-grade military equipment announced yesterday, including more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles, and high-tech loitering munitions for precision strikes. The Prime Minister also confirmed further economic support, guaranteeing an additional $500 M [£385 M] in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking the total loan guarantee up to $1 billion. This comes alongside the £394 M the UK has provided in grant aid, and will help ensure the continued running of vital humanitarian services for Ukrainians.
Importantly, recent aids to Ukraine include armoured anti-aircraft vehicles armed with high-precision missiles that can destroy jets and helicopters.
The 13.5-tonne Stormer vehicles look similar to tanks, but rather than firing shells they launch 17 high-velocity Starstreak missiles. Each laser-guided projectile splits into three darts, ripping apart targets with kinetic impact. Until now, Ukraine has been able to fire the missiles only from shoulder launchers or portable stands, which are more difficult to aim. Stormers are easier to operate and can clear Ukraine’s skies of Russian aircraft wherever they are stationed, according to analysts.
Stormers are British armoured Anti-Aircraft Combat Vehicles.
The “armour” refers to the plating that the vehicles are fitted with, for protection against bullets or shell fragments and “anti-aircraft” means that they are designed to protect against air attacks. The Stormers act as a mobile platform for Starstreak High Velocity Missiles (HVM) which can be used to counter aerial attacks. The tracked Stormer vehicle provides a mobile platform for the Starstreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) system giving the detachment protection and excellent mobility with eight ready to fire missiles and a further nine stowed inside. The HVM system is a low-level Close Air Defence system with a rapid engagement capacity optimised to counter the attack helicopter threat. This highly flexible system is also capable of being fired using the lightweight multiple launcher or from the shoulder. The missile employs a system of three dart type projectiles which can make multiple hits on the target. Each of these darts has an explosive warhead. The system is fitted with a roof-mounted air defence alerting device, providing target detection and prioritisation. A panoramic weapon sight is located at the front of the vehicle.
In his statement to Parliament, Ben Wallace claimed that Ukrainian forces have been using the Starstreak- short-range air defence system which can be operated manually on the shoulder, or mounted onto vehicles – high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles – for more than three weeks.
In a statement to Parliament on April 25, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Stormer armoured vehicles will give Ukrainian forces “enhanced, short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night”. Mr Wallace told the Commons that “as we can see from requests by Ukrainian, more still needs to be done”. He added: “So, for that reason I can now announce to the House that we shall be gifting a small number of armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for those anti-air missiles. “The Stormer vehicles will give Ukrainian forces enhanced, short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night” he said.
He continued: “In response to indiscriminate bombings from the air and escalation by President Putin’s forces on March 9, I announced the UK would supply Starstreak high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles. I am able to now report to the House that these have been in theatre for over three weeks and have been deployed and used by Ukrainian forces to defend themselves and their territory.”
The UK has sent over 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine including NLAW and Javelin missiles as well as loitering munitions. They have also provided Ukrainian troops with military equipment such as body armour, helmets and night vision goggles.
The Prime Minister confirmed for the first time that more than a dozen soldiers from Ukraine were being drilled on how to use the donated kit in the battle against Russia.
Downing Street would not disclose the location of the training for security reasons, but it is understood that troops are being trained on armoured patrol vehicles such as the Mastiff which was used in Afghanistan, and reconnaissance vehicles. The British Army recently performed capability demonstrations for senior Ukrainian military figures at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are moving, in conjunction with our allies, to providing new types of equipment that perhaps the Ukrainians wouldn’t have had previous experience of, so it’s only sensible that they get the requisite training to make the best use of it.” Asked if such a move would ramp up tensions with Russia, he said: “What is escalatory is the actions of Putin and his regime in Ukraine. “We are simply working together with our allies to give Ukraine the tools to defend itself” he said.
EU leaders will shortly vow to continue arming and financing Ukraine in the face of “unspeakable” Russian “atrocities … suffering and destruction”. EU states have so far pumped in €2bn of weapons into Ukraine from a joint fund, and much more in bilateral terms. The EU is injecting billions worth of arms into Ukraine’s arsenal. The White House is also working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters to help defeat Russia’s naval blockade, other than the recent provision of advanced rocket systems and munitions by the USA that cost about 700 million dollars.
This unprecedented increase in armaments in Ukraine by Western states seems to increase the capacity to escalate tensions and spiral the crisis out of control, which makes the end of he crisis even more unpredictable.