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  • The British government is sending its Brimstone 2 missiles to Ukraine.
  • Brimstone missiles are anti-armor weapons, and the originals have already been sent to Ukraine.
  • Brimstone 2 has an additional feature: the ability of a human to guide the missile to its target.

Ukraine is getting a new British missile with a more human touch.

The Brimstone 2 is a longer-range version of the original Brimstone air-launched anti-tank missile already issued to Ukrainian forces. Also in his new abilities: he can be guided to his goal by a human on his own, rather than considering his goal, or what he thinks is the goal.

The British Ministry of Defense confirmed the delivery of the missiles to Ukraine in a video released on November 27, detailing the delivery process and the capabilities of the missiles.

The first Brimstone, developed by European missile maker MBDA, is based on the US-made Hellfire anti-tank missile. First deployed by the Royal Air Force in 2005 and used during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

The Brimstone 1, a 6-foot-long missile with a range of about 12 miles, was designed as a fire-and-forget weapon. Equipped with millimeter-wave radar, it can detect and engage tanks without the need for guidance by launch aircraft or helicopters.

But combat experience revealed a problem. In Afghanistan, the rules of engagement mandate that the missile must be guided by a human operator to avoid the missile accidentally striking a civilian target. This stopped the fire and forget weapons.

In response, the RAF asked for a dual-guidance system in 2007. The Brimstone 2 still has a fire-and-forget radar, but is also equipped with a semi-active laser seeker that allows the missile to home in on the target. Published with a human laser designer. It also has a long range, reportedly 25 to 37 miles.

RAF Base Marham Brimstone Missile

A Brimstone missile at British Royal Air Force Base RAF Marham in December 2015.

Philip Coburn/AFP via Getty Images



According to British defense site Forces.net, “The new version’s guidance system is said to be vastly improved from the Brimstone 1 for finding challenging targets such as anything obscured by right angles or that can only be seen from odd angles.”

The original Brimstone was one of the first weapons Britain supplied to Ukraine after Russia’s February 24 attack, although perhaps not as the designers intended. In May 2022, a video appeared on social media showing that Brimstone 1 is It was launched from a truck Instead of a helicopter or other aircraft.

Since Ukraine was desperate to stop a Russian invasion, firing self-guided anti-tank missiles made sense. But the Russian advance has been halted and Ukraine has launched a series of successful counteroffensives that have liberated much of the Russian-held territory. This raises another problem: how to liberate Ukraine without destroying it.

Most of the fighting has taken place in cities and villages, or in areas where civilians may have homes and vehicles. With a human in the loop, Ukrainian troops can guide the missile to the right target.

While the Brimstone 2 can use an on-board database to match the radar signature it detects with a list of pre-authorized targets, the laser designator gives operators more flexibility in selecting targets.

British Air Force Tornado GR4 Brimstone Missiles

An RAF Tornado GR4 in Italy in March 2011. Brimstone missiles are visible at the lowest point under the fuselage.

Royal Air Force/Cpl Babs Robinson



For the defense of the Ukrainian coast, Brimstone 2 also offers another advantage. The missile is designed to attack ships and has been tested against swarms of fast in-shore attack craft or FIAC.

During a May 2013 test, Brimstone missiles conducted “the world’s first single button, salvo engagement” against multiple FIACs using their autonomous millimetric wave mode, destroying three ships, one of which was moving, without damaging nearby neutral ships. Inside the kill box, says the MBDA product brochure.

During an RAF test in 2014, Brimstone missiles using dual-mode anti-FIAC software took out two speedboats without damaging nearby neutral ships, the brochure says.

It is unclear how many Brimstone 2s have been shipped to Ukraine. It’s probably not that many because NATO troops have a limited number of precision-guided munitions. But a versatile weapon that can hit tanks and ships – with the option between automatic and human guidance – would be welcome.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy Magazine, and other publications. He has done Masters in Political Science. Follow it Twitter and LinkedIn.



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