Storm Shadow is an air-launched cruise missile designed by British, French and Italian companies. The system is manufactured by MBDA at a cost of £790,000 per missile.

The origins of Storm Shadow date back to feasibility studies on a possible UK requirement for a Long Range Stand-Off Missile in 1982, this project was however aborted. With the end of the Cold War the UK’s continued need for a stand-off requirement was reviewed and endorsed as part of the ‘Options for Change’ exercise. An international competition was launched in 1994 to meet the UK’s Conventionally Armed Stand Off Missile requirement, and seven companies responded. MBDA’s Storm Shadow missile was selected in 1997.

The missile has a range of approximately 550+km and flies at at Mach 0.8. The warhead features an initial penetrating charge to clear soil or enter a bunker, then a variable delay fuze to control detonation of the main warhead. The missile weighs about 1,300kg and a wingspan of 3 metres. The weapon is intended to target command, control and communications; airfields; ports and power stations; ammunition storage; ships/submarines in port; bridges and other high-value strategic targets.

After release, the wings deploy and the weapon navigates its way to the target at low level using terrain profile matching and GPS.

Storm Shadow entered service with the Royal Air Force in late 2001 and was first used during the 2003 invasion of Iraq by No. 617 Squadron. During the NATO intervention in the Libyan Civil War, the Storm Shadow was fired by French Air Force Rafales (as SCALP EG) and Italian Air Force and Royal Air Force Tornadoes. It was reported the missile had a 97 per cent success rate.

It is a fire and forget missile, programmed before launch. Once launched, the missile cannot be controlled, its target information changed or be self-destructed.

Storm Shadow is planned to be integrated with the Eurofighter Typhoon as soon as possible as part of the Phase 2 Enhancement in 2015. It will also be integrated and fitted to the F-35 once that aircraft comes into service.

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