A video of Ukrainian forces firing ground-launched Brimstone missiles has begun to circulate on social media. To our knowledge, the clip is the first recorded footage of a ground-based Brimstone launch in Ukraine, as well as the first video of a Brimstone missile being fired from an improvised launcher installed in the back of a truck.
While the circumstances surrounding the recorded launch are unclear, there is speculation pointing to a possible training exercise at an undisclosed location. The video serves as a particularly fascinating first look at the improvised ground launcher platform being used by Ukraine for the advanced missiles that were gifted to it by the United Kingdom.
The UK confirmed that it would be delivering Brimstone precision-guided missiles to Ukraine in late April, meaning the overall development and donation took mere days to carry out. Despite British officials originally hinting at the potential of a truck mount, the video of it in action gives us a better idea of how this was pulled off.
The Brimstone family of missiles, produced by European missile consortium MBDA, are ground, surface, and air-launched weapons clocking in at a little under 6 feet long and 110 pounds. Most importantly, it has a range of between 5 and 12 miles, with the lower end of that spectrum being most likely for land and surface-launched applications, the latter of which goes by the name Sea Spear. Its guidance system is designed to be all-weather, day-and-night capable through the use of an active millimetric-wave radar seeker. Brimstone is capable of salvo attacks and autonomously finding targets once it reaches a designated target area. This makes it ideal for taking out armor, artillery, and boat formations.
The truck-mounted ground-launch mechanism seen in the footage was supposedly developed by the UK specifically for Ukraine. Simply bolting a triple Brimstone launcher rack used on aircraft onto a truck-mounted frame was likely the idea behind the streamlined development process, through which the UK carried out the delivery on such a short timeline. We have seen this sort of improvised arrangement used in Brimstone testing before, including for the surface-launched Sea Spear variant:
While concepts for dedicated vehicle-mounted box launchers have been in the works with MDBA, just tacking an aircraft launcher and frame onto a small enclosed flatbed would make for a highly camouflaged and mobile firing platform solution for Ukraine's needs.
Following the initial announcement of the UK’s delivery, it was uncertain whether or not the Brimstone systems being sent to Ukraine would be intended for anti-ship or anti-armor operations, or both. However, the video of the missile firing presents a level of capability that could very well be beneficial in multiple use cases. Being that the truck-mount will mobilize the Brimstone system, one could easily be driven to shore for short-range maritime engagements.
Before the video surfaced, photos of Brimstone missiles in varying conditions had also begun to circulate on social media. These were the first indications that the UK-donated missiles had officially made it to Ukraine and were in use.
One post in particular notes that a Brimstone missile in near perfect condition did not reach its target, which was presumed to be near the Zaporozhye region. The weapon was allegedly captured by Russian forces, fully intact. A different tweet depicts the recovery of a previously detonated Brimstone missile near Balakliia, Kharkiv Oblast, although whether or not that means it reached its intended target is unclear.
Short-range missile systems have been a pivotal part of Ukrainian defensive operations, with ground-launched buggy and truck-mounted systems recently taking on greater prominence. These improvised arrangements not only make these systems considerably more maneuverable, but the likeness they share to civilian vehicles and/or small overall visual signature bolsters their survivability.
These Brimstone missiles on wheels could quickly become major domain-spanning threats for Russian forces, plinking armor in the east and threatening Russian ships approaching the country's shoreline in the south. The U.K. has the ability to keep the supply flowing, as well, and there is no shortage of platforms that can field the system in an improvised manner.
In other words, Ukraine is now fielding one of the most advanced weapons it has ever taken possession of and it can deploy it pretty much anywhere and any way it imagines.
Contact the author: Emma@thewarzone.com