Ukraine

UK to send more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

The Defence Secretary said the UK would also "explore" donating STARStreak high-velocity manned portable anti-air missiles.

The UK Government has announced it will send more weapons to Ukraine for the country to defend itself against Russian aggression.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Defence Secretary told MPs the UK is increasing its supply of military aid to Ukraine "in response to further acts of aggression by Russia".

"I can update the House, as of today we will have delivered 3,615 NLAWs (anti-tank missiles) and will continue to deliver more," Ben Wallace said.  

Watch: Armed Forces Minister – UK lethal aid is 'getting through' to Ukraine.

"We will shortly be starting the delivery of small consignments of anti-tank Javelin missiles as well."

Mr Wallace also said the UK would "explore the donation of Starstreak high-velocity manned portable anti-air missiles" in response to a request from Ukraine.

"We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies," he said.

"We shall also be increasing the supplies of rations, medical equipment and other non-lethal military aid."

Mr Wallace stressed the Government was "bound by the decision to supply defensive systems" and not escalate the war.

The Defence Secretary also said the estimated number of Ukrainian civilians killed or injured is more than 1,000, adding: "The true figure is expected to be much higher and I'm afraid worse is likely to come.

"It's for that reason that the UK will increase its funding for Ukraine to £220m, which includes £120m of humanitarian aid."

Watch: 'We won't accept what we are seeing in Ukraine', Defence Secretary says.

Mr Wallace told the Commons he knows "many of our constituents and our colleagues are fearful of what happens next".

"As long as we stand united, both as a House and as the international community, then the Kremlin's threats cannot hurt us," he said.

"President Putin and the Kremlin continue to threaten countries who offer help to Ukraine. Their military campaign will, I'm afraid, get more brutal and more indiscriminate.

"But it is my firm belief that our strength to stand up to such bullying comes from our alliances."

Mr Wallace added: "We should take strength from the people right across Europe who are standing shoulder to shoulder to protect our values, our freedom, our tolerance, our democracy and our free press. That is our shield."

Watch: Royal Dragoon Guards show off anti-tank weapons in Lithuania.

What are the weapons and what can they do?

The NLAW is a portable, shoulder-mounted missile system weighing 12.5kg.

It has a range of up to 600m and the British Army says the missile can destroy "any main battle tank in just one shot by striking it from above".

Nick Reynolds, a research analyst for land warfare at the Royal United Service Institute (RUSI), told the PA the NLAW is "very simple" to use.

"You point and shoot. You could learn it in an afternoon," he added.

However, the Javelin is a more complex and powerful weapon and has been supplied to Ukraine by the American military for several years – including 300 that were delivered in January.

Heavier than the NLAW, at 24.3kg, it is a 'fire and forget' system, allowing the user to lock onto a target, fire and then focus on a different target, with a range of 2.5km.

Trooper Josh Booth, Black Horse Troop, Royal Dragoon Guards, told Forces News "it's highly effective against next to all armoured vehicles".

He also said the Javelin has a daytime, night-time and thermal imagery sight.

The STARStreak high-velocity manned portable anti-air missiles, which Mr Wallace said the UK would "explore the donation of", are designed to provide close air defence against conventional air threats, such as helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

The weapons system has a range of more than 7km after Thales introduced improvements, and the three-dart payload maximises STARStreak's lethality.

It also comes with a laser beam guidance system ensuring the smallest and most difficult targets can be hit – something difficult to do with 'fire and forget' weapon like the Javelin.

It is capable of being fired from land, sea and air platforms from both automatic fire control systems or the STARStreak Lightweight Multiple Launcher – which means it can be deployed quickly and can be easily integrated into a force.

Cover video thumbnail: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) listens to explanations during a military drill outside the city of Rivne, northern Ukraine (Picture: Alamy).