The UK Royal Air Force fired the MBDA Storm Shadow conventionally armed stand-off missile during the first nights of the war, despite the weapon not having officially entered service.

Storm Shadow has been integrated on the Panavia Tornado GR4, mainstay of the UK's combat aircraft fleet deployed for Operation Telic. The Ministry of Defence says around 20 were fired.

The RAF says: "Storm Shadow is an extremely accurate weapon, but the results we've had so far are even more accurate than we expected."

UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon says the missile "makes a significant difference to our options. It is a deep penetrating precision-guided weapon, and enables us to attack well-protected, high-value targets which could previously only be destroyed by massive force."

Storm Shadow is equipped with the Royal Ordnance Broach tandem warhead and is optimised for penetrating targets such as command and control bunkers.

The MoD says although the missile has not been formally accepted into service, an "initial operational capability" is available. The 1,300kg (2,860lb) turbojet-powered Storm Shadow has a 250km-plus (135nm) range and cruises at Mach 0.8. It is guided by inertial satellite navigation and terrain profile matching, while terminal guidance is provided by an imaging infrared seeker.

Source: Flight International