Jeffrey LewisStorm Shadow, Saudi & the MTCR

When France sold the Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missile to the UAE (under the name Black Shaheen) in the 1990s, the United States strongly objected that the sale violated the voluntary guidelines under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).  France sold the missile anyway, but the US successfully pushed to tighten up MTCR guidelines in 2002 to prevent further transfers like this.

So, when news leaked last year that the UK would sell the same missile to Saudi Arabia, I expected a hue and cry.  Instead, nothing but crickets.

Is the Obama Administration trying to kill the MTCR? None of this would be happening if Vann Van Diepen were still alive.

Oh, wait, Van Diepen is still the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation. Damn.

Black Shaheen

Let’s start at the beginning.  In 1998, France announced that it would sell a stealthy cruise missile based on the French Apache to the United Arab Emirates, which named the missile Black Shaheen (sometimes rendered Black Shahine). France and the UK co-developed a follow-on to the Apache cruise missile, manufactured by MBDA, that the UK now calls Storm Shadow and France calls SCALP-EG.  (After Apache, SCALP is very droll don’t you think?) Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG is an air-launched land attack cruise missile (LACM) that is capable of delivering a conventional penetrator and blast warhead to a range in excess of 300 miles (approximately 500 km). The Italians joined the program in 2003 (I think they call it SCALP-EG, too.) Black Shaheen is a 250 mile export version of SCALP-EG.

I don’t precisely understand how France and the UK agree to export Storm Shadow, though the trade press usually refers to one country or the other other as responsible for a particular export.  So, for example, France is usually described as having exported the SCALP to Greece and the UAE.  I believe, however, that both countries must agree to the export.

The United States opposed the Black Shaheen sale to the UAE on the grounds that the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) voluntary guidelines – to which France and the United Kingdom are parties — establishes a strong presumption against the sale of cruise missiles capable of carrying a 500 kg payload to more than 300 km.  France and the United Kingdom, according to our friend Dennis Gormley, calculated the range of the missile at sea level, instead of the more efficient high-altitude flight profile that the missile actually follows. In any event, France and the UK went ahead with the sale over US objections.  I have seen reports that MBDA reduced the fuel load of the Black Shaheen to make it a less egregious violation of the MTCR, but the National Air and Space Intelligence Center lists the range as exceeding 250 miles or about 400 km.

The United States did not let the issue drop.  In 2002, the members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) updated the guidelines to standardize how to calculate the range of cruise missiles.  The guidelines now require that states determine the range based on “a one-way distance using the most fuel-efficient flight profile…”

In the United States, this was interpreted as preventing future Storm Shadow sales.  For example, a GAO report pointed to the Black Shaheen sale as evidence that “MTCR members have not always agreed with each others’ interpretation of the MTCR guidelines and control lists concerning cruise missiles.” The State Department, in those nifty comments at the back of GAO reports, allowed “that the definitions of range and payload have had an impact on control effectiveness in the past” [emphasis added] but noted “the MTCR adopted new definitions of range and payload in 2002, at U.S. instigaton.  We believe that these definitions will play a useful role in enabling the members to resolve technical questions that inevitably arise.”

The UK and France, however, had a slightly different view: Cruise missiles!  Get yer red hot cruise missiles! (Or, as AvWeek‘s Douglas Barrie put it, “Following the sale of the Black Shaheen, there was an expectation that this configuration of the missile might form an acceptable baseline for an ‘export’ system, addressing U.S. concerns.”)  Or not.

Saudi Seeks Storm Shadow

That brings us to the mid-2000s, when Saudi Arabia began negotiating to upgraded its existing fleet of combat aircraft, as well as buy new ones. As early as January 2005, press reports indicated that Saudi officials sought a “land-attack cruise missile” to hold at risk infrastructure targets from outside the range of regional air defenses. The Iranian air defense network depends heavily on point defenses.  The long-range of the Storm Shadow would allow Saudi combat aircraft to attack ground targets in Iran from beyond the reach of such defenses.  That is precisely what the UK did, when it used a small number of Storm Shadow cruise missiles to penetrate Libya’s S-200 based air defenses.

Now, you may be asking whether Saudi Arabia really needs Storm Shadow or this is just a case of missile envy. That’s up to you, dear readers.

In mid-2006, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom agreed to the Tornado Sustainment Program (TSP), sometimes rendered as the Tornado Capabilities Sustainment Programme (CSP) — a program to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s existing Tornado aircraft. Saudi Arabia was also negotiating to buy £20 billion worth of Eurofighter Typhoons, which caused the Brits to forget about a lot more than just the old MTCR.

In October 2006, UK officials met with their US counterparts to inform them that the TSP would likely include the sale of Storm Shadow missiles similar to those provided to the UAE. US and UK officials met a second time prior to May 2007. It isn’t clear whether the US agreed, but a UK government source told Barrie that the “highest level of government approval will be required” — a reference to the Prime Minister.

Whether the US acquiesced or not, in April 2007 a photographer captured a Saudi aircraft in UK carrying the Storm Shadow as part of the TSP.  In September 2007, during an joint exercise in the UK, Saudi Lt Col Abdulaziz Al Qdairi told Flight International that Saudi Arabia wanted to purchase Storm Shadow, stating “We hope we will have [advanced weapons] such as these to make sure our air force has the latest weapons and technology.”

As best I can tell, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom reached an agreement to provide Storm Shadow sometime in late 2009.  Neither party announced the sale, but BAE later announced that “Significant incremental orders totalling £1.2bn were received in the period for the Tornado Sustainment Programme (TSP) weapons contract.” Industry sources later claimed this referred to the Storm Shadow sale to Saudi Arabia.  Neither the UK nor the Saudis have confirmed that, but I am pretty sure this is happening.  Air Force Magazine, for instance, in December 2010 claimed the sale included Storm Shadow.

Is the MTCR screwed?

I suppose I understand why there isn’t more outcry.  Without an official acknowledgment from the UK or the Saudis, it is hard to be certain Saudi Arabia is buying Storm Shadow. And, of course, Saudi Arabia is only following the precedent set by the UAE. The aggrieved party is the nonproliferation regime in general — in other words, no one in particular.  Well, I suppose there is also Lockheed Martin, which is prohibited from selling the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) by rules that its competitors ignore.

I think we should, however, be at least a little concerned about the precdent from the Storm Shadow sale.  I am not worried that Saudi Arabia plans to place nuclear weapons on Storm Shadow. (Now, the Brits and Froggies, that’s another story according the Air et Cosmos.) But I do think that the MTCR is important enough to deserve our consideration.  Cruise missiles may post a much greater proliferation threat than many people realize.  (Well, people who aren’t Dennis Gormley.) Ignoring it invites other countries to do the same thing.

Exhibit A is Brahmos — a Russo-Indian cruise missile with a range greater than 150 miles (Russia and India claim 290 kilometers, just under the MTCR threshold.)  Russia and India intend to sell Brahmos — which is a portmanteau of the Brahmaputra and Moskva Rivers — to other countries.  The  website for the missile states that it has drawn interest from “Malaysia, Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Egypt, Oman, Brunei and other African & Middle Eastern countries.”  Isn’t that just wonderful?

Although Brahmos is MTCR-compliant, it is easily modified to extend the range.  The possibility that other countries might purchase Brahmos and extend the range resulted in a very unusual event: a Russian defense official telling the Press Trust of India that Moscow was “not keen” on selling the missile to third countries:

“This is a very lethal and potent weapon system, which can upset balance of forces in any region where it may appear, be it in our neighbourhood, Indian Ocean or Latin America.

“India is one thing, she is our strategic partnership and poses no military threat to Russia, but we are not keen on giving it to other countries, be it China or any other friendly nation,” Colonel-General Anatoly Mazurkevich told PTI.

Mazurkevich, who heads international cooperation department of the Russian defence ministry, said that one of the reasons for not Russia not keen to export this weapon, “highly lethal for potential enemies”, is that its range could be easily extended from the current 300 km, allowed under Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

“We are not worried about it as we have nuclear weapons, but this (unauthorised extension of range) may pose threat not only to India but also to our other friends and allies,” Mazurkevich underscored.

It is really spectacular to imagine a weapon destabilizing enough to give a Russian officer pause. I am not sure how successful we can be in stopping the export of cruise missiles like Brahmos, but I sure as hell want to try. The MTCR is going to be a crucial part of that.

Which means someone needs to start asking questions about the Storm Shadow sale.

The story of how Saudi Arabia came to purchase the Storm Shadow is pieced together from a number of sources. I am indebted to the various individuals uncovered so many fragments of this story: The reporter with Flight International who scored a crucial interview with a Saudi officer on the Tornado Sustainment Program, the planespotter who photographed noticed a Saudi Tornado carrying a Storm Shadow cruise missile in the UK, the industry reporter who inferred from BAE’s statement to investors that MBDA had executed a large sale to Saudi Arabia in 2009. But most of all, I am indebted to an amazing series of articles published by Douglas Barrie, who detailed each step in the pages of Aviation Week and Space Technology.  I highly recommend his articles: “Missile Maneuvers” (March 29, 2010), “Prime Directive: Downing Street will have to sign off on releasing the Storm Shadow missile to Riyadh” (May 7, 2007), “Kingdom Come: London aims to ensure that the U.S. doesn’t try to nix elements of Saudi weapons package” (October 16, 2006), “Desert Construction: Saudi Arabia plans to use Typhoon acquisition to boost indigenous industrial capability” (February 20, 2006), and “Desert Deal: Typhoon will bolster Saudi air defense capabilities as a replacement for the Tornado now in the role” (January 2, 2005).


  1. Bruno (History)

    Well clearly, the question of the transfer of cruise is an important issue for the regime. On the other hands, one has to consider the two main issues which are :
    1- The range/payload couple and the possibility that it exceeds the limit of cat1 item rather than the range by itself
    2- More importantly, the possibility that the payload be modified as the MTCR main focus remains missiles that are capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction rather than all missiles..

  2. Mike Plunkett (History)

    “…there is also Lockheed Martin, which is prohibited from selling the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) by rules that its competitors ignore.”

    Point of order: Lockheed Martin is selling JASSM abroad. The Australians have bought it and it is under evaluation by both The Netherlands and South Korea.

    So the question becomes, is the MTCR only applied selectively to certain countries and/or regions?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Australia and South Korea are both MTCR partners. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not.

    • Bruno (History)

      To reply to Jeffrey comment, the fact that a country is a MTCR member or not should not, in theory, have any influence on the decision to export an item to the said country.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Yes, that is correct in theory.

      In practice, however, South Korea certainly viewed membership in the MTCR as opening the door to missile assistance from the United States and others. I believe South Korea was correct in this assessment.

      (PS: For informed readers, the commenter is a well-informed Bruno, but not our well-informed Bruno, if you catch my drift.)

    • Bruno (History)

      South Korea is indeed a very interesting example. And in fact you are correct : there are a number of members which consider that being part of the “club” gives them some leeway in getting technologies or items from other members.
      But I think we have to apply theory on this as much as possible for possible future members sake (if you catch my drift).

  3. rwendland (History)

    Another MTCR “violation” on the cruise missile-ish front seems to be the Canadian export of the Pratt & Whitney PT6 engine for the IAI Eitan, a heavy UAV in service 2010, first prototype flight 2004-ish. Prima facie this seems a Category II 3.A.1.b & 3.A.9 violation, but I have never noticed this raised by the media – have academics looked into this? Am I mistaken?

    The IAI Eitan has a payload of 1000kg+ and a range of 1000km+ (some claim 7400km), and designed for deep penetration roles. It’s a multi mission payload system. Clearly in MTCR UAV territory. calls it “the second largest operational UAV in the world”.

    Although mainly for ISTAR, Israeli officials are quoted as saying it has been tested for “all kinds of payloads, in all kinds of configuration schemes” including long-range strike. quotes an IAF officer briefing “the Eitan is designed to carry out a wide range of missions, from those similar to other UAVs, to brand new missions that are exclusive for this vehicle, given its unique combination of range, endurance and payload.”

    Although it may not be a sensible use given their other delivery options, on paper a nuclear payload looks a realistic option.

    So why has there seemingly been no fuss about this apparent MTCR “violation”? In may only be a category II item where “partners have greater flexibility”, but it is to a non-NNPT state with nuclear weapons, which should be the very brightest of red flags. This is no great example to others on how the MTCR is to be applied.

  4. PW (History)

    some additions to this discussion:
    – Finmeccanica, the Italian partner in the MBDA Storm Shadow programme announced in April 2010 that it was in involved in a 2009 order for Storm Shadows, without naming the customer. Another very good reason to assume reason to assume the Saudi deal is on.
    – It is not sure that exporting Storm Shadow violates the MTCR norm. MBDA says it has ‘a range in excess of 250km’, Jane’s claims it has a 400kg warhead. Both values are below the MTCR ones. NASIC claiming a range of 250 miles may actually be a case of some mistaking KM for miles… Note that NASIC also claims the French and UK versions of the Storm Shadow have a range of 300+ miles, or 480+ km, significantly more than MBDA claims.
    – The USA appears to be nibbling on its own treshhold with regards to advanced missile sales to the region. The UAE has ordered ATACMS, seemingly the version with a range of just below 300 km and there have been rumours that it is seriously trying to obtain SLAM-ER ASMs. Bahrain has been cleared to buy them.
    – Lastly, whereas the USA has objected to the supply of MTCR ceiling air launched cruise missiles to Saudi Arabia it is happy to sell advanced long range strike aircraft to the region (F-15S for Saudi, F-16E for UAE, F-35 for Israel and Turkey) armed with stand off weapons such as guided bombs and missiles (JDAMS, HARMs, JSOW,) and equipped with a range of advanced sensors which are designed to take out SAM systems. It needs a bit more guts to use these weapons but there is no absolute need for storm shadows to take out out-dated Iranian long range SAMs or its few modern point defence SAMs. It are also these weapons which are mainly used to attack key targets in Libya, in particular the hardened ones. In short, what is the use of applying to MTCR if you are prepared to supply reasonable alternatives to missiles?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Well, look at that. In Finmeccanica’s 2009 consolidated financial statements note “export orders for the Storm Shadow cruise missile and the Exocet anti-ship missile (Q2).”

      In terms of the MTCR, the UK and France calculated the range at sea-level for Black Shaheen. They may be doing the same thing for their own missiles. As I noted in the post, I have also read that they reduced the fuel loading, which I would argue doesn’t solve their problem with a strict interpretation of the MTCR guidelines.

      We should distinguish between things the US is doing (like selling barely compliant ATACMs) and things the US has not yet done (sell SLAM-ER or JASSM, which I think would raise the same issues as Storm Shadow). Indeed, I believe the US told the Saudis “no” on JASSM and SLAM-ER. I am pretty sure Bahrain is not cleared to buy SLAM-ER.

      The purpose of the MTCR isn’t to prevent arms sales. It is to control the spread of “unmanned delivery systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.” Glide bombs (like JDAM) or short-range missiles (HARM, JSOW) are legitimate defense articles. (Which is not to say it is always a good idea to provide them.) Providing “reasonable alternatives to missiles” that build partner capacity for conventional defense without contributing to national nuclear weapons programs is a good thing.

    • Bob (History)

      This does seem to have been a somewhat one sided article. As you point out the US has been pushing at the edges for some time. I would add that the US issue with Black Shaheen also had some commercial interests at play, notably trying to kill of Dassault in the UAE, the ploy failed miserably and the UAE upgraded/acquired more Mirage 2000’s to carry Black Shaheen.

  5. blowback (History)

    Perhaps the White House is happy to see a weapon like this supplied to the Saudis. It ratchets up the pressure on Iran without being seen as result of American involvement. Furthermore, if an American company tried to sell the Saudis such a weapon, wouldn’t it need Congressional approval, at which point the Israelis would no doubt ask for money/some other military hardware as compensation. If the Israelis made a similar demand of Dave, I would expect the reply to be along the lines of Arkell v Pressdram 1971(unreported).

    By getting the Brits to sell the kit, the White House avoids these complications

    • Seb Tallents (History)

      I’m not sure that we need to look so far as the whitehouse for motivation to sell weapons to the Sauds, going by past deals with the Sauds.

  6. Rip (History)

    What’s to prevent a user from “topping-off” of the missile fuel to optimize the maximum range? How is a missile modified to reduce the maximum range? I would assume the modification (reduction?) of the internal fuel tank volume would be the solution but this would seem to entail considerable design and engineering costs for a limited number of units. How, under the MTCR, is compliance transparently verified? I smell an opportunity for another “trust us” situation. As usual, money talks…..and offsets the risk of detection and the severity of the punishment (should it be applied).

    • Jeffrey (History)

      As usual, Rip, I agree with you.

  7. John Schilling (History)

    It does not help, I suspect, that the United States is eagerly attempting to develop hypersonic cruise missiles as conventional strike weapons, touting their superiority over ballistic missiles in that “everybody knows that cruise missiles are not nuclear, thus we can safely use them without risking nuclear war”.

    Kind of undercuts the US’s moral authority if it turns around and demands that cruise missile sales be curtailed on the grounds that, gee, who would have imagined it but it turns out that cruise missiles just might be nuclear after all.

    I suspect that the MTCR may become, de facto, the BMTCR.

    • John Bragg (History)

      “I suspect that the MTCR may become, de facto, the BMTCR”

      Then whither Trident-UK?

      I’m sure this is a stupid question, because it’s a really obvious one, but what’s the MTCR 101 answer to why the US-UK Trident missile deal is OK? Or is that more evidence that intra-MCTR transfers are OK?

    • John Schilling (History)

      Or is it that the UK really only counts as the 51st through 53rd United States where such matters are concerned? And then there’s the pesky technicality that the US hasn’t actually sold any Tridents to the UK; not sure what the MTCR has to say about missile rentals…

      But, yes. Transfers between MTCR-compliant missile producing states seem to be de facto acceptable.

    • pw (History)

      MTCR’s own FAQ answers put it rather clear:

      ‘The MTCR Guidelines do not distinguish between exports to Partners and exports to non-Partners. Moreover, the MTCR Partners have explicitly affirmed that membership in the Regime provides no entitlement to obtain technology from another Partner and no obligation to supply it.’

      May be the tridents were loaned or rented, but the UK has bought over 150 sub-launched BGM-109 cruise missiles since the mid-1990s. Spain and the Netherlands cancelled their plans to buy them, not because they could not but because they decided they did not need them. In another case Turkey (also MTCR member) is receiving SLAM-ERs. So seemingly it’s quite OK to transfer relevant missiles between members.

      Assuming that the UK Storm Shadow sale to Saudi Arabia violates the MTCR norms the statement ‘Transfers between MTCR-compliant missile producing states seem to be de facto acceptable.’ could of course be put in doubt, unless the USA stops supplying missiles to the UK.

    • John Schilling (History)

      It should be noted that the MTCR is not intended to be an absolute bar on sales of long-range missiles (though it does seem to suggest that sales of long-range missile production facilities is right out). Per the agreement’s language, transfers are “OK” if there are strong assurances in place that the hardware in question will only be used for the stated purpose and will not be reexported.

      W/re the British Tridents, the stated purpose would be something like “nuking the crap out of anyone who sufficiently annoys Her Majesty”, so we’re OK there. And they are rentals, so the Queen will have some ‘splainin to do if they wind up in third-party hands. The British Tomahawks, one can plausibly imagine suitable assurances being set up.

      And it is not inconcievable that a Saudi Storm Shadow deal could be similarly structured. But so long as the numbers are being gamed to pretend Storm Shadow isn’t an MTCR class I weapon at all, this seems unlikely to be the case.

    • John Bragg (History)

      “transfers are “OK” if there are strong assurances in place that the hardware in question will only be used for the stated purpose and will not be reexported.”

      Thanks Schilling. That’s the sort of MCTR 101 answer I was looking for.

    • John Schilling (History)

      W/re intra-MTCR transfers, PW is right in that the text of the agreement doesn’t give partner states any special privileges in that regard. However, one suspects the credibility of any promise not to reexport or otherwise misuse a transferred item would be substantially diminished by the recipient’s conspicuous refusal to join the “we generally promise not to export or misuse this sort of item” agreement.

      Since a credible promise to that end, if not an actual enforcement mechanism, is required by the MTCR, this pragmatically equates to transfers being permissible only between MTCR partners (and not always then).

    • PW (History)

      I guess what we really need to know to be able judge to which extent the Storm Shadow sale is a MTCR violation is if Saudi Arabia has given the UK appropriate assurances that the Storm Shadows will be used only for the purpose (presumably conventional role/legitimate defence) stated and that such use will not be modified nor the items modified or replicated without the prior consent of the UK and the missiles will not be retransferred without the consent of the UK.

      In this regard it is may be useful to take into account that the UK contracts for arms sales with S Arabia (incl the Tornado upgrade programme of which the Storm Shadows are a part) include long term service contracts in which UK/BAE systems personnel based in S. Arabia will service the equipment. This would provide options for regularly inventory checks etc. by the UK.

      Regarding MBDA or the UK government fiddling with the range estimates to pretend the missile is outside Cat. I , we are of course not certain that that is the case this time. The only thing we know is that MBDA states in public a 250km+ range.

      May be Wikileaks will tell us more one day. Just like it gives some background on Libyan interest in SCALP:
      ‘He explained that the GOL had discussed, during a recent high-level French visit, the purchase of the French SCALP Missile (a.k.a. “Storm Shadow”) to replace the SCUD ¶B. xxxxxxxxxxxx asked whether the USG would consider the equipment MTCR-compliant, and if so, whether the USG would bless the sale. Emboffs offered to pass the information to Washington for guidance. “How soon do you think you will know?” he asked. We told him we would follow-up as soon as we had more information for him. (Note: The SCALP Missile is an air launched cruise-launched missile, fired from Rafale as well as other combat aircraft. From a separate source, DATT learned December 10 that although France is keen to sell Rafale jets to Libya, it is not interested in selling the Libyans the SCALP Missile, which is deemed “too sensitive.” ‘

    • Nicholas Marsh (History)

      Reply to PW

      “I guess what we really need to know to be able judge to which extent the Storm Shadow sale is a MTCR violation is if Saudi Arabia has given the UK appropriate assurances that the Storm Shadows will be used only for the purpose (presumably conventional role/legitimate defence) stated and that such use will not be modified nor the items modified or replicated without the prior consent of the UK and the missiles will not be retransferred without the consent of the UK.”

      The UK will almost certainly have received written end-user commitments from Saudi Arabia which will detail how the weapons could be used and prohibit re-transfer without prior approval by the UK. That’s pretty much standard for all major conventional exports to countries outside NATO or the EU (and not unknown within). I doubt that under normal circumstances Saudi could get away with secretly re-exporting them (if only because of all the UK ex-pats training and maintaining the Saudi air force).

      However, all bets are probably off if there is a major crisis. I’m sure that Libya made such commitments when it purchased cluster munitions from Spain a few years ago. They were recently used against civilians in Misrata and I’m sure that censure by European export control authorities is not one of Gaddafi’s most pressing concerns.

  8. Mark Lincoln (History)

    The US is going to have to cut defense spending. Defense sales keep US contractors in business and help the balance of trade. The White House will do all it can to achieve those two goals. The last factor might be that Obama is a nice guy who doesn’t stand up to anyone. He rolls over for Netanyahu, and he rolls over for The Kingdom.

  9. pw (History)

    I remain puzzled about why Storm Shadow falls under MTCR if it has a range of 250+km and a payload of 400 kg whereas the MTCR norm is ‘capable of delivering at least a 500 kg “payload” to a “range” of at least 300 km’. Even if the calculation of the range can be questioned, the payload is still too low. Same applies for the example of the Brahmos. Or are there other elements of the guidelines that apply?

    Correct that Bahrain is not cleared for JASSM, it is for ATACMS as far as I can determine. Sorry, slightly unclear formulation on my side. Question remains why the USA is apparently lowering it own standards and if this somehow relates to it not complaining anymore about storm shadow (possibly because of the reason suggested by blowback).

    More fundamental issue: Instead of using a Tornadoes with nuclear tipped (?) storm shadows a strike package consisting of F-15S’s with advanced EW systems and a range of SAM supression weapons would still be a pretty effective tool to dump those probably rather clunky Saudi WMDs warheads (?) on most targets within let’s say 1000+ km from Saudi Arabia.

    OK, your point is not that anyone believes that Saudi Arabia is going to have those nuclear tipped Storm Shadows, but that the Storm Shadow sale may hurt the established MTCR norm because they are (may be just) outside the limits of MTCR. My point is that it can be argued that by selling advanced long range strike aircraft packages to the Middle East, including to a nuclear weapons possessor the USA is not really giving a good example with regards to the proliferation of potential WMD delivery systems. Ignoring the risks of selling advanced strike aircraft packages as legitimate conventional defence articles to build partner capacities may also invite other countries to do the same in other cases (e.g. Russia may find it perfectly OK to sell advanced strike aircraft to Syria, assuming Syria could actually pay.)

    In that regard I do for example not understand why I should be concerned about the proliferation of the Brahmos missile because it ‘can upset balance of forces in any region where it may appear’ (which seems to refer to it as a conventional weapons, not a WMD delivery system) and not about the sale of legitimate defense articles like 80 F-15S with advanced munitions?

    I am concerned about both.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I believe the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, which provides the following ranges:

      SCALP-EG and Naval SCALP: +300 miles
      Black Shaheen: +250 miles
      Storm Shadow: +300 miles

      Please note, also, that although Black Shaheen is said to be a reduced range version of SCALP-EG, Doug Barrie reports that even the reduced range version still likely exceeds the MTCR thresholds, strictly interpreted. (See: Barrie, “Prime Directive: Downing Street will have to sign off on releasing the Storm Shadow missile to Riyadh,” May 7, 2007.)

      Recall, that MBDA calculated the range of the Black Shaheen at sea level, using an artificial and inefficient flight profile. I don’t see any evidence that the claim the missile has a range “in excess of 250 km” — which is provided for all variants — is calculated using the 2002 MTCR guidelines or excludes the possibility that the range is in excess of 400 km. Nor do I see any reason to accept an assertion, made without evidence, that the entry in Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat is a mistake. (Indeed the 2006 edition has the same ranges.)

    • John Schilling (History)

      Assuming the stated performance of the Storm Shadow is in fact an upper limit, i.e. that the weapon can deliver its usual 450 kg warhead to 250.01 km range, and that this is calculated for a sea-level trajectory, the same weapon can carry a 500 kg payload (and 50 kg less fuel) to a range of approximately 325 km on a high-altitude trajectory. That would put the Storm Shadow into MTCR territory. Which is unsurprising, as pretty much every other cruise missile in the same size class using the same propulsion technology is an MTCR weapon.

      And I’m pretty sure that “250+ km” does not in fact mean 250.01 km. MBDA is carefully gaming the numbers so that their advertising glossies do not describe an MTCR-class weapon, but they do appear to be actually selling an MTCR-class weapon. As the MTCR concerns itself with what a missile can do, not with what it is advertised as doing, this is a problem.

    • Corentin (History)

      One thing is sure about NASIC: contrary to what is mentioned, SCALP-EGs cannot be fired from ships.

      “SCALP Naval” (MBDA designation) or “MdCN” (for Missile de Croisière Naval – its official MoD designation) and SCALP-EGs are two quite different systems. MdCN will be adapted from the SCALP-EG so as to be launched using FREMM-class frigates VLS or through Barracuda-class SSNs torpedo tubes.

      In terms of range, official statements claim the SCALP Naval/MdCN CM will belong to the “1000km-class” (620 miles). My understanding is that it’s not a maximal range; the effective range will depend on the flight profile.

      At least this one’s case is clearer with regard to the MTCR…

    • Bruno (History)

      My understanding is that there are two different versions one for export (Black Shaheen) and another for National purposes (Storm Shadow/SCALP).
      Just to clarify :
      There is no possible question : the Black Shaheen falls under MTCR guidelines but the issue is knowing whether it is category 1 or 2. If it is category 1 (or can be transformed to be in that category by modifying the fuel and payload masses ratio) then the guidelines are clear that it should not be exported (although at the end, it all boils down to a decision by the exporting country, in that case countries).
      If it is category 2 then the remaining issue one responsible State should look at is whether the system can be modified to carry a WMD.

  10. Sebastian Tallents (History)

    I’m pretty sure Storm Shaddow is said to have a range of “over 250km”, not 250 miles. Not that the two are incompatible what with the secret squirrel “over”, but as indicative remarks…—Scalp_120.html

    IIRC, in the recent Libya Campaign, the missiles were deployed much closer than 250 miles away from their targets, and I would have thought that if they could be deployed further away, they would have been.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I am not sure how you know where the aircraft were located when they launched Storm Shadow.

      The Libyans have some S-200s, so I am willing to be that those Storm Shadows were fired safely out of the range of the 250 km S-200 — unless, of course, the Tomahawk salvos completely eliminated the S-200s.

    • Seb Tallents (History)

      I looked a bit, but I can’t find it any more. There was a blurb on either the Times or Beeb (though, whether you take that as verbatim or mangled and misinferred journalese, or alternatively I miss-remember) that they flew into Libyan airspace. Mind you, with 250km at coastal targets, they wouldn’t need to do that either way.

      I imagine the (US) Tomahawks did the leg work… the initial RAF commitment was something like four planes and rather symbolic.

      Still, it seems to be that the 250 figure most commonly attaches itself to km rather miles.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      The 250 figure most commonly attaches itself to km rather miles because MBDA claims the range exceeds 250 kilometers. But the US intelligence community states that the range exceeds 300 miles (about 480 km) for Storm Shadow/SCALP and 250 miles (about 400 km) for Black Shaheen.

      There is no question that, now that the air defense network is down, that the UK MOD announced that UK aircraft now “can operate over [Libyan] airspace with impunity.” But I strongly suspect the salvo of Storm Shadows was outside Libya airspace (and Libyan air defenses) whether from 250 km or further.

    • PW (History)

      According to a 1998 document from the French Senate, the SCALP-EG has a range of 400km. It does not mention if that is a an absolute range or the range for the flight pattern it is designed for (i.e. including low observable low altitude flight path.)

      The question remains if the UK could have the altered the Storm shadow version it sold to Saudi Arabia so that it really cannot fly more than 300 km.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      As I noted before, press reports indicate that MBDA reduced the fuel loading for the Black Shaheen. This appears to have reduced the range of the Black Shaheen, but not so much that it fell below the 300 km threshold. Early press reports about US-UK negotiations over the Saudi sale indicated that the UK was prepared to do the same thing, but that — as in the case of the UAE — it would not completely resolve the range issue.

  11. Heisbourg (History)

    Having been involved during the mid-Nineties in the SCALP-EG program at MATRA (as it was in pre-EADS days), I can add a few points:

    .The name SCALP (which I conjured up and which was subsequently adopted ) was inspired less by our APACHE then by the US TOMAHAWK: I figured that the Americans may have the battleax, but that we were going to get the prize. I justified the choice as an acronym for Système de Croisière à Longue Portée. The subsequent EG tag stands for Emploi Général: ie General Purpose.

    .I suscribe to Bruno’s analysis of Black Shaheen’s standing vis à vis MTCR; At the time, it was the British (including Prime Minister Blair) who did the heavy-lifting in Washington. Although the sale to the UAE was French, the Black Shaheen had critical UK technology content.

    .MTCR criteria, to my knowledge, are metric. Using miles (and what is meant by miles anyway: are they statute or nautical? the difference between the two is hardly trivial) only confuses further a complex regime.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      That is priceless. Thank you for providing the etymology of SCALP-EG.

      The National Air and Space Intelligence Center uses statute miles, probably because many US officials are quite innumerate. It is annoying, I confess. But no one listens to me.

    • Bruno (History)

      It is interesting to note that at the time, the General Purpose (EG) denominator came from the fact that the Apache missile was first intended as an anti-runway system..
      For the rest, François knows the history quite well. I take it that there was also a lot of efforts conducted in Paris and elsewhere to convince the US administration.

  12. Jeffrey (History)

    Apparently, the US Congress was not entirely pleased with this development.

    In February 2008, the Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members sought a “specific assurance that the Executive branch will consult with our Committees before any approval of a request to sell Saudi Arabia such sensitive weapon systems as Storm Shadow cruise missiles …”

    February 14, 2008

    The Honorable Condoleezza Rice

    Secretary of State

    U.S. Department of State

    2201 C Street, N.W.

    Washington, DC 20520

    Dear Madam Secretary:

    Your Department has informed our Committees of its intent, pursuant to section 3(d) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2753(d)), to approve the retransfer of controlled U.S.-origin defense articles from the United Kingdom (UK) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in connection with the UK’s sale of 72 Typhoon fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia. We believe that this retransfer proposal raises some of the same issues that the direct sale of advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia would raise. In particular, we would not want the UK aircraft sale to jeopardize Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), any more than we would permit a U.S. sale to pose such a threat to our closest ally in the region.

    We understand that the UK Government has received helpful assurances from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We understand also that the retransfers in question relate only to the Typhoon aircraft, and not to the weapon systems that may later be sold for use with the aircraft. And we realize that many weapon systems that might be used with the Typhoon would be of U.S. origin or have U.S. content, and would therefore be subject to the need for U.S. Government approval, although not always for prior notice to our Committees.

    We would appreciate receiving assurance from the Administration that the United States will not approve the export or retransfer to Saudi Arabia for use with the Typhoon aircraft of any U.S. weapon system or incorporated defense article that would threaten Israel’s QME. We would also appreciate specific assurance that the Executive branch will consult with our Committees before any approval of a request to sell Saudi Arabia such sensitive weapon systems as Storm Shadow cruise missiles or Paveway IV precision guided weapons. And we would appreciate assurance that our Committees will be informed promptly if you should learn that the assurances provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom are no longer being observed.

    If these assurances are provided, we will have no objection to receiving formal notification of the proposed retransfer approval. We are confident that any other concerns will be settled before the expiration of the 30-day waiting period mandated by section 3(d) of the Arms Export Control Act.


    Richard G. Lugar
    Ranking Minority Member
    Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

    Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
    Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
    Ranking Minority Member
    House Committee on Foreign Affairs

    Howard L. Berman
    Acting Chairman
    House Committee on Foreign Affairs

  13. Heisbourg (History)

    Bruno is correct: Apache was a French-air force anti-runway program initially inspired during the last years of the Cold War by the need to strike at Warsaw pact air-bases from a safe distance. The corresponding production run was smaller than that of either SCALP EG or Storm Shadow. My understanding is that the corresponding stockpile was decommissioned some years ago, possibly for lack of suitable targets (but that causality is conjecture).

    And yes, the French did do their own lobbying vis à vis the US on Black Shaheen export: but the UK, at the highest level, was in the forefront; after all, what is a special relationship for if you don’t use it, particularly if you have the political throw-weight of a Tony Blair as Prime Minister to soften-up the Clinton administration?