Footage of Brimstone anti-armour missiles being launched in Ukraine surfaced for the first time on 12 May but recent footage points to Ukraine now potentially deploying the Dual Mode Brimstone 2. In this updated video we look at what the missile is capable of, how they came to be in Ukraine and how they have been deployed.
In our earlier video on Brimstone use in Ukraine we examined the system’s capabilities, history and the new ad-hoc ground launch platforms in use. In this updated video we look at evidence of Brimstone use over the summer and autumn of 2022 and discuss the transfer of Brimstone 2 and its capabilities.
The UK Ministry of Defence publicly confirmed the transfer of ‘Brimstone 2 Operational Missile Dual Mode’ to Ukraine on the 27 November with a short video. Dual Mode refers to a variant of the missile which can be used both as a ‘fire and forget’ system but also have a ‘man-in-the-loop’ capability which was originally developed as part of an Urgent Operational Requirement for a low-collateral damage weapon. According to MBDA Brimstone 2 has “an overall increase in performance with improvements in range and engagement footprint”, this is enabled by improved seeker, improvements to the missiles airframe with a more modular design and software updates.
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On 12 May video of what appears to be a test launch of Brimstone Missiles in Ukraine surfaced online. A containerised launch platform can be seen launching a salvo of three missiles. The footage shows what appears to be a repurposed commercial vehicle, such as an IVECO Daily or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter box van. The van appears to have a series of rails mounted inside the cargo area which may have something similar to a Cobham triple launch rail fixed to them. It could be described as a sort of very advanced technical. It is unclear when or where the footage was filmed.
In April, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed the supply of Brimstone missiles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It was announced that these would be adapted for surface launch for use against ground targets. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the UK government had been in talks to provide the maritime variant of of the missile (Brimstone Sea Spear) to the Ukrainian Navy and there was speculation that this would be the variant sent to Ukraine. However, on 25 April, Defence Minister Ben Wallace told the UK Parliament that “if we do provide Brimstone, we will look to provide it for the land, using stock that we already hold, but not as yet for the sea.” A day later, on 26 April, the UK’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Parliament that “such is the speed with which our technicians are now working and so effective is the partnership with industry that I am pleased to say that that has been moved forward. It is necessary to inform the House that we will be providing Brimstone in the next few weeks.”
Brimstone is an advanced, rocket-powered, radar-guided weapon which can seek and destroy armoured targets at long ranges with high precision. Developed by in the late 1990s it was designed to be fired from aircraft and entered service with the Royal Air Force in 2005, seeing action in Iraq, Afghanistan Libya and Syria. The missile’s manufacturer MBDA has continued development of the weapon with ground-based and maritime variants designed and proposed. Brimstone uses a 94 Ghz millimetre wave (mmW) active radar homing seeker and a sophisticated guidance system which can differentiate and prioritise targets. The missile delivers a tandem shaped charge to destroy armoured targets at ranges varying from 12 to approximately 20km depending on launch platform and conditions and the variant of missile. Brimstone is capable of firing a salvo of missiles which will then fly in parallel before striking their targets in unison. This may be what is seen in the video. Brimstone is a fire and forget missile with the missile able to targeted at a designated killbox to then engage highest value targets it detects.
On 6 May the first evidence of Brimstone’s presence in Ukraine was provided by a series of photographs of the remnants of a Brimstone 1 missile. The recovered tail section of the missile bore a sticker denoting the surviving component as being manufactured in September 2001. Subsequent photographs of fragments from another missile, which perhaps self destructed, surfaced online on 11 May. These suggested that this Brimstone 1 was manufactured in around May 2001.
On 8 May photographs of a further Brimstone 1, this time intact perhaps photographed before launch or after a failure of some sort, appeared online. If photographed following a failure it would indicate that this missile’s self destruct failsafe did not activate. Though the missile appears in good condition if it landed after a failure. From its markings seen in the photographs it is clear that the weapon’s components were produced in September 2001 and February and June 2004. We do not yet know how Ukrainian forces are employing Brimstone or how effective it has been.
Further footage from Ukrainian Brimstone launches emerged on 15 May, showing some close-ups from inside the launch vehicle. A Cobham triple rail can be seen mounted and several launches were shown as part of a compilation video shared by Ukrainian forces. In this video we only see two missiles being launched rather than a salvo of three although in one clip we can see three missiles mounted on the rail. The footage also shows us that the system appears to be mounted on a palletised frame work which could seemingly be easily mounted on more capable vehicles.
Brimstone offers greater range than the infantry-operated anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) like the western Javelin or the Ukrainian Stugna-P. This greater range coupled with its ability to be fired in salvos offers a valuable capability to Ukrainian forces.
Update – 15 November 2022:
In October a video from BFBS Creative confirmed that the UK has provided Brimstone 2 missiles to Ukraine. BFBS do not state when the video was filmed but the footage shows a transit chest marked ‘Brimstone 2 Operational Missile Dual Mode’. Dual Mode refers to a variant of the missile which can be used both as a ‘fire and forget’ system but also have a ‘man-in-the-loop’ capability which was originally developed as part of an Urgent Operational Requirement for a low-collateral damage weapon. According to MBDA Brimstone 2 has “an overall increase in performance with improvements in range and engagement footprint”, this is enabled by improved seeker, improvements to the missiles airframe with a more modular design and software updates.
Some previously unseen footage of a Brimstone launch was circulated online on 15 November, which may show the launch of several Brimstone 2 missiles. It is unclear when the footage was filmed. Though the resolution of the footage is low there is a discernible glint on the seeker head/dome which might indicate they are a later type of missile to those seen earlier in Ukraine which have a translucent seeker dome.
Update – 27 November 2022:
The UK Ministry of Defence publicly confirmed the transfer of Brimstone 2 missiles to Ukraine on the 27 November with a short video.
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Brimstone, MBDA, (source) Brimstone Guided Missile, Think Defence, (source) Footage: Brimstone Missiles Deployed in Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source) What is the Brimstone missile?, BBC, (source) Ukraine Update 25 Apr. 2022, UK Parliament Hansard, (source) Ukraine 26 Apr. 2022, UK Parliament Hansard, (source) Brimstone 2 Missiles in Use in Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source) How the UK’s Brimstone Missiles Reach Ukraine, BFBS Creative, (source) MBDA reveals Brimstone 2 missile work for UK, FlightGlobal, (source) Dual Mode Brimstone, MBDA, (source)
While doing some archival digging I found some interested newsreel footage of early Cold War British missiles. The footage features the Malkara anti-tank missile and the Thunderbird surface-to-air missile.
The Malkara was developed in the early 1950s. It was a wire-guided anti-tank weapon with a 57lb HESH warhead. It had a range of up to 2.5 miles. In the footage we see it guided through a hole in a target net.
The Malkara was mounted on a number of platforms and vehicles and remained in service into the mid-1960s. It’s bulk and weight saw it eventually replaced by the smaller Vickers Vigilant and the Swingfire.
The second missile featured in the newsreel is the English Electric Thunderbird, a British Army SAM with a 75km range and a speed of Mach 2.7. The Thunderbird was replaced by the Rapier in the 70s, which is still in service today.
Hope you enjoyed seeing some of these British cold war missiles in action, it’s amazing what you find in archives when you aren’t looking for it!
Footage Source: Universal Newsreel Volume 30, 1957, via US National Archives, (source) Anti-Tank Weapons, T. Gander, (2000)