BREAKING NEWS: Ukraine Strikes Russian Air Base Using US-Delivered ATACMS Tactical Missiles

October 21, 2023 - In a recent development, Ukraine has reportedly utilized ATACMS MGM-140 tactical missiles, covertly supplied by the United States, to target a Russian air base. This attack led to the destruction of several helicopters, as confirmed by multiple international press agencies.
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An ATACMS MGM-140 tactical missile is launched from an M270 MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket System. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has detailed the aftermath of the strikes on airfields located in Berdyansk and Luhansk, both situated in Russian-occupied territories. The assault resulted in the destruction of nine helicopters, an air-defense launcher, multiple vehicles, ammunition depots, and inflicted significant damage to the airstrips.

While the U.S. has remained silent on the official delivery of the ATACMS MGM-140 tactical missiles to Ukraine, sources acquainted with the situation confirmed the move earlier today. It's believed that fewer than a dozen of these missiles reached Ukrainian soil in the past few days. This addition to Ukraine's arsenal enhances their capability to target distant Russian positions, ensuring the safety of Ukrainian troops by keeping them out of immediate danger.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, along with other national leaders, had been urging the U.S. to supply these long-range missiles. The Biden administration, however, hesitated for an extended period due to concerns that Kyiv might employ these weapons to strike deep into Russian lands, potentially intensifying the ongoing conflict with Moscow.

However, a shift in stance was observed last month when President Biden approved the missile delivery during a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy. While the U.S. remained tight-lipped about the specifics of the delivery, including the timing and quantity, it was hinted that only a limited number would be dispatched.

The ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) MGM-140 is a family of short-range, surface-to-surface missiles developed by the United States Army. Developed in the 1980s and introduced into service in the early 1990s, the ATACMS was designed to provide military forces with a deep-strike capability, allowing it to engage targets beyond the range of traditional artillery systems. This missile system was envisioned as a replacement for older, unguided rockets, offering a more precise strike capability.

In terms of range, the ATACMS has a significant reach, with different variants having different maximum ranges. Early versions of the missile had a range of approximately 165 kilometers, but later models, especially the Block IA and Block II variants, extended this range to around 300 kilometers. This extended range allows the ATACMS to strike deep into enemy territory, making it a strategic asset in theater-level operations.

The missile's power of destruction is substantial. It can be equipped with various types of warheads, including unitary warheads for pinpoint strikes against specific targets or submunitions that can scatter over a wide area to engage multiple targets or deny an area to the enemy. The submunition variant, for instance, can disperse hundreds of smaller bomblets over a broad area, making it effective against softer targets like enemy infantry, light vehicles, or air defense systems.

The ATACMS missile is typically launched from platforms like the M270 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System). These platforms give the ATACMS its mobility, allowing it to be rapidly deployed and fired from various terrains and conditions. The ATACMS's ability to deliver a precision strike at extended ranges, combined with its destructive power, makes it a valuable asset in the modern battlefield, especially in scenarios where long-range engagements are necessary or where precision is crucial to avoid collateral damage.

Defense News October 2023