Ukraine has its eyes on the Rafale missiles used by the French Air Force to bomb Muammar Gaddafi's hideout, with what that might mean for one of Putin's hideouts.
Following the successful deployment of long-range 'Storm Shadow' missiles against Russia, Ukraine's long-range strike capability can be further enhanced by the use of French 'SCALP-EG' missiles.
The French president refrained from announcing the delivery program of the "SCALP-EG" missiles to Ukraine on national television. The French "SCALP-EG" missiles are mainly deployed on the advanced Rafale 4.5 generation fighter aircraft of the French Air Force as well as other fighters.
In January this year, a French official said that his country did not rule out equipping Kiev with fighter jets. At the time, a Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said the service was also seeking Rafales and Gripens from NATO countries along with the F-16 fighter jet.
France has since retracted its statements. When asked recently, Paris denied that such plans were under consideration.
With a reported range of over 155 miles, the SCALP-EG missile has the longest range of any NATO-led munition ever launched, with the exception of the Storm Shadow missiles. The French "SCALP-EG" is the version of the "Storm Shadow" missile, jointly developed by France and the United Kingdom.
The 'Storm Shadow' missile was reportedly used to launch massive strikes in the Luhansk region. Russia claimed to have intercepted several Storm Shadow missiles.
Earlier, there were reports in local Russian media that Ukraine was firing "Storm Shadow" missiles from a modified Su-24 under cover provided by MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets.
With the delivery of the long-range 'Storm Shadow' and possible deliveries of the 'SCALP-EG', Britain and France have 'broken taboos' and are believed to have paved the way for the flow of long-range munitions into Ukraine.
The 'SCALP EG' and 'Storm Shadow' missiles are essentially identical except for a change in the aircraft's hardware and software interface. The missile weighs 1,300 kg and has a range of 250-400 km, with a payload capacity of 400 kg.
A triple navigation system using inertial navigation, GPS and ground reference navigation steers the 'SCALP EG/Storm Shadow'. The missile can hit its impact point under difficult conditions thanks to these advanced navigation techniques, an infrared imaging detector and automatic target identification algorithms.
The Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG was launched against Gaddafi targets during the 2011 military intervention in Libya by the French Air Force, the Italian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. Among the targets were the Al-Jufra airbase and a military bunker in Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi's hometown.
With their recent use by Ukrainian forces, this may be the first time they have been used directly against Russian forces.
Russia is known to have launched an "unprecedented" series of missile attacks on Kiev, days after Russia launched a barrage of six hypersonic missiles near the capital, aimed at destroying Ukraine's Patriot air defense systems.
US Defense Department and congressional officials told CNN that in recent weeks Ukrainian forces have used the US Patriot air defense system to shoot down at least one Russian fighter jet. Russian aircraft have remained largely behind Russian defense lines, making it difficult for Ukraine to target them with short-range systems such as NASAM.
US officials said the Russian jets targeted by the Patriot were carrying out a bombing operation to fire missiles at Ukrainian targets, something Russia has been doing for the past year to maximize civilian casualties.
They also said that the Ukrainians were responsible for making their own firing decisions once the West introduced the Patriot systems, noting that "it is up to the Ukrainians when and how to operate the Patriots to protect their own people."
Notably, some members of Congress say advanced fighter jets would make it easier for Ukraine to target Russian planes without having to spend on expensive Patriot munitions made to intercept ballistic missiles.