The Wall Street Journal has reported that the US is considering providing Ukraine with its longest-range missiles yet. Kyiv has long been requesting the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which has a range of about 190 miles and can be used to strike targets far beyond the front lines, including Crimea. The UK has already sent Ukraine long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles with a similar range to ATACMS, which are said to be striking Russian targets with nearly pinpoint accuracy.
Last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu accused Ukraine of using the missiles to strike the Chonhar bridge, a key span connecting the Russian-held Kherson to Crimea. The US has so far resisted sending ATACMS to Ukraine, partly out of concern that they could be used to strike targets inside Russia and further escalate the conflict.
ATACMS missiles are ready to use by Ukraine’s military and can be fired from launchers previously supplied to Ukraine, including the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers. The range of ATACMS missiles, between 100 and 190 miles, depending on the model, is superior to the existing HIMARS, which has been hailed by Ukraine for the damage they can wreak. ATACMS is a long-range guided missile that gives operational commanders immediate firepower to win the deep battle, according to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
Each ATACMS missile has a 500-pound blast fragmentation warhead, making it a potentially vital weapon to disrupt Russia’s logistic and transport hubs and destroy supplies to Putin’s forces deep in occupied Ukraine. Furthermore, Crimea, which has massive importance to President Putin and relies on a single span, the Kerch Bridge, to connect it to Russia, would be in the range of the highly sought-after weapon system.
One hesitation from the Biden administration is whether the US has enough ATACMS missiles to spare. However, US and European officials say that behind the scenes, the tone in Washington has recently shifted, and there appears to be a greater appetite to send Ukraine more advanced weapons. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution last week calling for ATACMS to be sent to Ukraine immediately, and there is growing support among the US public to provide weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself.
In addition to considering sending ATACMS, the Biden administration is also contemplating whether to send controversial cluster bombs to Kyiv amid a shortage of artillery ammunition. When asked about the timeline for obtaining ATACMS, Ukraine’s Chief of the Military Intelligence replied, “Close.”
While the Pentagon has said that it is not aware of any imminent decision to send ATACMS to Ukraine following the Wall Street Journal report, US and European officials remain hopeful that the US will change its position, as it did with Abrams tanks and HIMARS. The Biden administration’s hesitancy to send ATACMS is understandable given the potential risks and concerns, but it is clear that there is a growing desire to provide Ukraine with advanced weapons to defend itself against Russian aggression.