The United States is set to provide Ukraine with a “small number” of long-range ATACMS surface-to-surface missiles, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter. This pledge was made by US President Joe Biden during a recent meeting with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. The exact timing of the announcement and delivery of the missiles is still unknown, but officials have described the number of munitions to be delivered as “small.”
The ATACMS missiles have a range of approximately 190 miles (more than 300 kilometers) and will significantly enhance Ukraine’s long-range capabilities. Kiev has been requesting these munitions from Washington for some time, and the Biden administration’s position on the matter has shifted from a flat refusal to considering the request over the past few months.
It remains unclear whether the United States will provide Ukraine with additional launchers to fire the ATACMS missiles. If additional vehicles are not allocated, the missiles will likely be fired by HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and other systems previously supplied to Ukraine by the US and other NATO allies.
One notable aspect of the ATACMS missiles is that they are expected to feature controversial cluster warheads, which contain numerous smaller bomblets. The reasons for choosing the cluster version of the missile are unknown, and officials did not provide an explanation. However, cluster warhead ATACMS missiles are believed to be more readily available and plentiful in US stocks compared to those fitted with larger, unitary payloads.
Earlier this year, the US agreed to supply Ukraine with cluster artillery shells in the standard NATO 155mm caliber. This decision was made as a temporary solution to address the shortage of conventional munitions. However, the delivery of cluster shells was heavily criticized, even by close US allies, due to the controversial nature of such munitions. Many countries worldwide have banned cluster shells because of their high failure rates and the long-lasting threat they pose to civilians due to unexploded bomblets.
The provision of ATACMS missiles to Ukraine is just the latest development in the ongoing tension between Ukraine and Russia. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has escalated in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of initiating hostilities. The introduction of these long-range missiles will likely have implications for the already volatile situation on the ground.
In conclusion, the United States is set to provide Ukraine with a limited number of ATACMS missiles, which will significantly enhance Ukraine’s long-range capabilities. The inclusion of controversial cluster warheads in these missiles has raised concerns among some observers. The dynamic between Ukraine and Russia will undoubtedly be influenced by the introduction of these weapons.