Recently, a U.S. official told the media that the Biden administration is considering supplying Ukraine with long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS). Another official also confirmed to the media that the supply of this missile is “on the table” and may be included in the upcoming security assistance plan. However, the official also said that no decision has been made yet and that it may take several months for Ukraine to receive the missiles.
Previously, Ukrainian President Zelensky publicly declared: “Ukraine needs long-range missiles to deprive the occupiers of the opportunity to use missiles to destroy Ukrainian cities far away from the front line.” The Ukrainian military regards ATACMS missiles as its top priority The weapons and equipment obtained are even higher than those of F-16 fighter jets. Before launching a counteroffensive in July 2023, Zelensky even stated: “Without long-range weapons, it will not only be difficult to perform offensive missions, but also difficult to conduct defense.” In short, after tireless pressure, Ukraine seems to be about to get the weapons they want. .
So what is so powerful about this missile that Ukraine is so obsessed with? Why does Ukraine think this is the key to its victory?
ATACMS is a tactical ballistic missile manufactured by Lockheed Martin of the United States. It is also the only ballistic missile currently equipped by the U.S. Army. The development of this missile began in 1980 and is used to attack important targets such as logistics and reserve positions behind enemy lines. The ATACMS missile is equipped with a solid propellant engine, has a range of up to 300 kilometers, and a terminal speed of up to three times the speed of sound. It can be launched from the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and M142 HIMARS, both of which are already equipped. Ukrainian army and performed well in actual combat.
In the eyes of the Ukrainians, the great role of ATACMS is to extend the range of the Seamass rocket launcher that had previously shined in the battle, and its power has also increased. This missile can carry a penetrating high-explosive warhead weighing more than 230 kilograms and is used to destroy strong fortresses with a circumferential error of only 9 meters. This heavy-duty high-explosive warhead is not only extremely lethal to Russian fortresses, but it can also be equipped with a submunition warhead to destroy targets such as airport radar stations.
Of course, the key issue is that the range of this missile is far enough. If ATACMS is obtained, the Ukrainian army can directly and remotely attack Russian military targets in Crimea from the current front, and can even directly attack the Crimean bridge. Russia’s air defense system has no confidence in intercepting it.
The Ukrainian army has previously obtained long-range precision-guided weapons such as Storm Shadow with a range of nearly 300 kilometers. Although the effect is good in actual combat, it has not been used many times. The main reasons are the following three problems: First, the missiles such as Storm Shadow have a range of nearly 300 kilometers. The aiding countries, the United Kingdom and France, do not have much equipment themselves, so the amount they can provide to Ukraine is also quite limited; secondly, such missiles can currently only be mounted on modified Su-24 fighter-bombers, and Ukraine’s air force has undergone a period of Years of battles have resulted in heavy losses. The number of missiles that can be dispatched is limited, and Russian fighter jets need to be careful about interception. Therefore, they can only hide dozens of kilometers behind their own front lines, which also shortens the range of the missiles. There is also a technical problem. Air-launched missiles often have higher requirements for reconnaissance of the target area. For example, the missile needs to inject a three-dimensional image of the target building so that it can hit more precise vulnerable locations, which also has higher requirements for reconnaissance before attack.
But ATACMS can avoid the above problems. First of all, the US military has equipped more than 2,000 of this missile, and other allies also have more than 1,000 in stock. The United States is planning to phase out this missile and switch to an alternative model with a longer range. Once the United States If you let go, the amount of supply to Ukraine will be considerable, which will also help the United States update its army’s long-range missile weapons.
Secondly, Ukraine already has dozens of Haimas and M270 systems that can launch ATACMS in service, and land-based launch platforms are easier to conceal and can fire closer to the battle line. As long as the number of missiles is in place, the frequency of attacks can be greatly increased. In addition, the reconnaissance business before the launch of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles will also become relatively simple. You only need to know the geographical coordinates of the target to launch it. If this missile is deployed in large numbers, it will be difficult for the Russian navy and air force to gain a foothold in the Crimean Peninsula, because these high-value targets will be attacked with high frequency and difficult to defend.
Once the United States provides ATACMS, it will have a chain effect. Ukraine has repeatedly requested Germany to provide Taurus air-launched cruise missiles with a range of nearly 500 kilometers. This missile has a range of more than 500 kilometers and is safer than Storm Shadow. Another advantage of the Taurus is that it uses a two-stage tandem warhead, which can penetrate the outer wall of the fortification and explode inside, with an intelligent killing effect. Germany had been quite hesitant to provide this weapon because it was unwilling to bear all the pressure from Russia. If the United States is willing to provide ATACMS missiles, Germany should also release Taurus, which will undoubtedly increase Ukraine’s long-range attack capabilities. It can be seen that the changes brought about by ATACMS may be far more than its own fatal lethality.