NATO allies are chasing new long-range weapons to fill a critical missile gap as the US plans deep-strike deployments

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Several NATO allies have agreed to a plan to develop new long-range missiles that are intended to fill capability gaps that have become increasingly noticeable as Russia wages its war in Ukraine.

Following an announcement the day before on deep-strike deployment plans involving the US and Germany, the latest move further signals Europe's recognition of gaps in its arsenal and its desire to develop that capability to deter an aggressive Russia.

On Thursday, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy signed onto an initiative focusing on developing "long-range and deep-fire capacity," said French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu during the NATO summit on Thursday, per Bloomberg's reporting.

The new initiative among these NATO allies is focused on developing ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges is excess of 500 kilometers. Lecornu explained that "this is clearly a segment we don't have."

US Navy warship USS Savannah fires an SM-6 missile

SM-6 missile fired by a US Navy warship US Navy/Lt. Zachary Anderson

While details on the arrangement are still unclear, Lecornu suggested other allies could join in the weapon's development and that the missile would ultimately serve as a deterrent.

"The idea is to open it up as widely as possible," he said, according to reporting from Reuters, adding, "It has value, including on a budgetary level, because it obviously also allows the various costs to be amortized."

Lecornu shared a picture of him and his German, Italian, and Polish counterparts signing the letter of intent on X, writing: "The war in Ukraine shows that long-range strikes are a key issue for the defense of Europe."

La guerre en Ukraine montre que les frappes longue portée sont un enjeu clé pour la défense de l'Europe.

Au sommet de l'OTAN à Washington, signature d'une lettre d'intention 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇮🇹🇵🇱 pour initier une coopération dans ce domaine mobilisant notre industrie de défense européenne. pic.twitter.com/NfZMM1QSIP

— Sébastien Lecornu (@SebLecornu) July 11, 2024


The joint initiative comes a day after the US announced plans to deploy new long-range capabilities in Germany as part of a joint effort to bolster its deep-strike options. The "episodic deployments" will begin in 2026 "as part of planning for enduring stationing of these capabilities in the future," the US and Germany said.

The conventional long-range fires will include new SM-6 and Tomahawk capabilities, as well as unspecified developmental hypersonic weapons. These "have significantly longer range than currently lang-based fires in Europe," the two allies added.

In both cases, the shift toward improving long-range capabilities on European soil further signals NATO's understanding of critical gaps in its arsenal highlighted by the Ukraine war.

An Army Tactical Missile System during live-fire testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico

Army Tactical Missile System fired in New Mexico. White Sands Missile Range/John Hamilton

Ukraine has used Western-provided tactical ballistic missiles like the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) and Storm Shadow cruise missiles to strike into Russian-occupied territory such as Crimea but is short on true deep-strike capabilities. Russia, meanwhile, has regularly used its arsenal of long-range ballistic and cruise missiles to devastate Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.

Experts have assessed that while many European states have long ignored the importance of long-range strike options, the war in Ukraine is prompting them to pursue new surface-to-surface strike capabilities and prioritize the development of such weapons.

The US, too, is hard at work on long-range ground-based capabilities in the wake of its 2019 withdrawal from the INF Treaty, which it accused Russia of violating.

The US is fast-tracking development of the Typhon Mid-Range Capability, which uses a ground-based launcher to fire the Standard Missile 6 and Tomahawk, and the Army's Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon.

Responding to US plans to deploy deep-strike capabilities in Germany, among other NATO actions, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "This is a very serious threat to the national security of our country."

"All of this," he said, "will require us to take thoughtful, coordinated, effective responses to deter NATO, to counteract NATO."

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