The UK Secretary of State for Defence, Grant Shapps, pledged to send 200 Brimstone anti-tank missiles to Ukraine’s Armed Forces during a speech to the House of Commons on 22 February 2024, ahead of the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Brimstone is a precision attack missile built by the European missile specialist, MBDA, alongside the US company, Boeing, as a subcontractor. The lightweight strike missile has a length of 1.8 metres, a diameter of 180mm and weighs 50kg.

It is equipped with a dual-mode millimetre wave/semi-active laser (mmW/SAL) seeker that empowers it to engage fast-moving vehicles or vessels on land and at sea and in direct and indirect modes of operation.

Currently the UK Royal Air Force employs the missile as a low collatoral, air-to-surface strike capability. The missile was first deployed by the service in 2019 at the height of the conflict against Daesh.

That same year, at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition, MBDA showcased an adaptation of the missile for uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV), such as Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS UGV.

In September last year, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) launched Project Wolfram: a little-known programme to develop a mobile anti-armour variant of Brimstone, for which firing tests were said to begin in the second quarter of 2024. This initiative is being developed alongside industrial suppliers MBDA UK and the British land systems manufacturer, Supacat.

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It is believed that Wolfram was prompted by Ukraine’s success with British-supplied Brimstone missiles. Around the mid-May timeframe in 2023, social media imagery showed Ukrainian forces utilising the missile, fired from a flat-bed vehicle, toward Russian targets.

Referencing Ukraine’s previous success with Brimstone, Shapps pointed out that the weapon forced “Russian forces to abandon and retreat from an attempted crossing of a river.”

In support of this boost in weaponry, Shapps added that the UK Armed Forces will also continue to train a further 10,000 Ukrainian troops in the first half of 2024; building on the 60,000 troops they have already trained.

Reversing Ukraine’s recent ‘weapons deficit’

In his speech, Shapps reiterated a point hammered home by Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during the recent Munich Security Conference, where he stressed that more needs to be done to reverse the “artificial deficit of weapons,” which the Ukrainian statesman argued “will only help Russia.”

It appears that Ukraine’s withdrawal from Avdiivka, a city in the Donetsk region long fought-over, can be largely explained by the force’s lack of weapons and ammunition.

“Delays in Western security assistance, namely artillery ammunition and critical air defence systems, inhibited Ukrainian troops from defending against Russian advances in Avdiivka,” said the security research group, the Institute for the Study of War.

Additional reporting from Richard Thomas.