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Debris Of MALD Decoys Found In Ukraine After First Storm Shadow Strikes

MALD Ukraine
One of the buildings supposedly hit by the Storm Shadow cruise missiles. (Photo: Reuters) In the boxes: photos from Twitter and Telegram showing debris left by MALD and Storm Shadow.

Debris of MALD was found in the Luhansk region, near the targets of recent missile strikes where Storm Shadow debris have also been found.

It appears that the Ukrainian military has received a previously unannounced package of ADM-160B Miniature Air Launched Decoys (MALD). The images of the debris, found near the buildings hit by missile strikes in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region on May 12, 13 and 15, quickly started circulating on social media. These US-made decoys were possibly drawing away the air defenses’ attention from the weapons that struck at least a couple of targets in the area.

Interestingly enough, the weapons that the MALDs were protecting appear to be Storm Shadow missiles, whose delivery to Ukraine was confirmed by the UK only the day before. In fact, inside near the destroyed targets, debris of the Storm Shadow air launched cruise missiles has also been recovered, confirming that indeed some of the missiles were already delivered before the UK Secretary of Defenced announced it.

The Miniature Air Launched Decoy is a low-cost, expendable, air-launched, programmable decoy munition that can replicate the flight profiles and signatures of aircraft and weapons, drawing away the attention from them while confusing enemy integrated air defense systems. The remains found in Ukraine clearly identify the decoys as the older ADM-160B, which is missing the datalink and decoy of the latest ADM-160C version now operated by the US.

As we mentioned, the delivery of MALD decoys was never announced and the US government, while aware of the reports of the decoy used in Ukraine, has not commented on the matter. Also, it is not known how sensitive the technology aboard the older MALD is or if it has been altered, however it seems that the US deemed it was worth the risk of Russia recovering such technology.

Talking about the launching platform, it is possible that, just as happened for the AGM-88 HARM missiles, MALD was integrated on the Ukrainian MiG-29s and Su-27s, since it weights less than 300 lb. MALD has a stated range of around 500 miles, making it essentially a small cruise missile, thus suggesting that it might have been launched together with the Storm Shadow to protect it and the impact.

As for the Storm Shadow, its pieces of debris were found at the same missile strike sites where MALD’s debris were found, and some were labeled with the cruise missile’s markings. Nothing emerged so far regarding the type of aircraft used by the Ukrainians to launch the Storm Shadow, however the MiG-29 and Su-27 might be unlikely as their heaviest loading hardpoints are certified for up to 1,000 kg, while the Storm Shadow weights 1,300 kg.

Luhansk City is about 100 km from the front lines, which puts it out of the reach of the HIMARS and other multiple launch rocket systems used by the Ukrainian military but well inside the Storm Shadow’s range. Ukrainian journalists identified around 200 Russian targets in the occupied areas that might represent possible targets for the recently donated cruise missiles.

The delivery of the Storm Shadow might have the same effect of the HIMARS’ delivery last year, with Ukraine hitting all the Russian targets that are now in range. This is especially relevant in anticipation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, as the new capability might be used to seriously incapacitate the already suffering Russian logistics far from the frontlines. The Crimean bridges might be also future targets, as many auspicated their destruction to further undermine the Russian capabilities.

Russia, while threatening retaliations for the delivery of Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, appears to have taken the risk seriously, and it is being rumored that ships of the Black Sea Fleet might soon vacate Crimean ports and head out to sea. The missile, in fact, has a BROACH (Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented CHarge) multi-stage warhead, consisting of a precursor charge in front of a follow-through bomb, designed to penetrate hardened targets.

This makes the cruise missile ideal not only for striking bunkers, command nodes, supply depots and bridges, but also ships. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is aware of this and even trolled the Russian adversaries on after the confirmation of the delivery of Storm Shadow, saying that the distance from the front lines to Kalibr missile-toting ships in Sevastopol is 298.7 km.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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