WATCH: UK government coy about whether Stormers loaded with Northern Ireland-built Starstreak missiles have been committed to Ukrainian warzone
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has ducked questions about whether a type of UK-built tank-style missile launcher has indeed been sent to Ukraine.
The vehicles are known as Stormers, and they are basically armoured, mobile launch pads for Starstreak missiles.
The Starstreak is a three-pronged device which flies faster than the speed of sound, and is designed mainly for taking down planes, drones, and helicopters.
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There had already been talk about the UK supplying bazooka-style Starstreak missile launchers to Ukrainian fighters, to bolster their arsenal alongside existing consignments of NLAW anti-tank missiles – which also happen to be built in Belfast.
But in recent days, there have been a number of reports stating that London has already committed to send Stormers into the warzone – something which would massively bolster the Ukrainian’s ability to make use of the Starstreaks.
For instance, Charlie Parker of The Times of London reported on Tuesday: “Britain is giving Ukraine armoured anti-aircraft vehicles [Stormers] armed with high-precision missiles that can destroy jets and helicopters, it is understood.
“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.”
Mr Wallace was quizzed by reporters about the Stormers today during an appearance he made at the Invictus Games for wounded military personnel.
He said: “I’m not going to comment on the operational details. I’ll be making a statement to Parliament next week, but we have said we are going to commit to deliver some armoured vehicles.”
He added that “we’ve also publicly talked about delivering high velocity anti-air missiles,” and that, without being specific, “we will continue to give them the air defence they need”.
On March 9, the government said it had “taken the decision to explore the donation of Starstreak high velocity man-portable anti air missiles” to Ukraine (News Letter’s emphasis].
It also said at the time that some 3,615 NLAWs had been delivered to the Ukranians, and the UK will “continue to deliver more”.
The NLAWs have been decisive for Ukrainians, who have been faced with massed convoys of Russian tanks; according to some media reports, by late March NLAWs accounted for about 40% of tanks destroyed in action by Ukrainian forces.
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