David Hambling

Dec 16, 2022


Ukraine’s locally-made anti-tank missile has been praised for its effectiveness from the start of the invasion. Now the Stugna-P missile is revealing capabilities with videos showing it taking out new types of target including Russia’s most advanced tank.

The Stugna-P, known as Skif in its export version, is an older generation than the Javelin, and also a much larger weapon, with the launcher and the missile weighing over 60 pounds apiece, making it a support weapon with a three-person crew rather than something a footsoldier carries. It relies on operator guidance; while Javelin is fire-and-forget, the Stugna operator has to keep the crosshairs on the target all the time while the missile is in flight. Traveling at 200 metres per second, it takes 25 seconds to reach at target at its maximum range of 5 kilometers. That’s a long time, especially if the target is moving. But it certainly can hit moving targets – even, on at least two occasions, downing Russian helicopters.

An unusual feature is that it can be operated remotely. The operator can be fifty metres away from the tripod launcher, watching the target through a remote video link. This video feed is often captured by soldiers with cellphones, probably the main reason why there are so many Stugna-P videos on social media. This gives us more of an idea of how it is used than other missiles like NLAW and Javelin.

As of 2021, the Ukrainians had reportedly received over 7,000 Stugna-P missiles and over 100 launchers. The Skif export version has been sold to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but the urgent need for launchers meant that many of the weapons produced for foreign customers were diverted to Ukrainian forces. This is why you see Stugna-P videos with Arabic characters in the display.

The standard missile is the RK-2S, which performs a popup-and-dive maneuver as it approaches the target, visible in some videos. This is not as effective as the Javelin’s top-attack mode but is better than a direct attack, and it has proven capable of knocking out Russian T-72, T-80 and T-90 tanks, but the new T-90M is more challenging with its active protection system and new reactive armor which can stop TOW missiles.

A new video is claimed to show a Stugna-P taking out a Russian T-90M. The claim is unverified, and it might be a lucky shot from just the right angle, or it may be that Ukraine has started using the larger and more powerful RK-2M missile, which has about 40% more penetration than the earlier version. The missile, which was previously under development, has not been confirmed to be in service.

Another new video appears to show another first: a Stugna-P being fired at a group of Russian footsoldiers in the Bakhmut area. The fighting in this region reportedly consists of massed Russian infantry assaults so there is less use for anti-tank weapons. However , a version of the missile known as RK-2OF has also been reported in which the 18-pound shaped-charge warhead

is replaced with a blast/fragmentation charge which is more effective against personnel. Again, it is impossible to confirm, but it seems likely that this type is also now in the field.

There is no doubting the popularity of the Stugna-P with Ukrainian forces, and the government is doing everything to try and increase production. On December 6, the Ukrainian parliament voted to transfer $4.5m earmarked for political parties to production of Stugna-P missiles and launchers.

This highlights another of the weapons’ advantages: at around $20,000 per shot, it is far more affordable than advanced weapons like the Javelin, and can be used on lower-value targets like trucks and infantry. The steady stream of videos appearing on social media may also turn out to be the Stugna-P’s greatest asset: the physical effect of losing yet more tanks may be less significant than the effect on morale.

Every Stugna-P kill demonstrates the Ukrainian will to fight, as well as the capabilities of their local industry. And all the Russians can do is watch their vehicle burn.


David Hambling – Author of ‘Swarm Troopers: How small drones will conquer the world,’ following cutting-edge military technology in general and robotic systems in particular. New time-travel adventure ‘City of Sorcerers’ out now in paperback and Kindle.