US agrees to transfer long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine

The United States will provide a “limited number” of long-range missiles to the AFU. This was reported by three US officials and a congressman to the channel NBC News. They did not specify when the missiles would be delivered or when an official announcement would be made.

Ukraine has been requesting ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missiles from the US for several months. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN that he intended to raise the issue again when he met with Joe Biden.

ATACMS would allow Kyiv to attack targets up to 180 miles (290 kilometers) away, striking supply lines, railroad tracks and control points behind Russia’s front lines. These needs have already been partially covered by British-French Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles. However, the air-launched Storm Shadow missiles cannot fully replace ATACMS, the Ukrainian military noted: the U.S. missiles are mounted on mobile ground-based systems and are better suited for hitting the necessary targets behind enemy lines.

U.S. Defense Department officials said Washington does not have a large surplus of ATACMS to provide to Ukraine. “We need to make sure we provide enough of our own stockpile”, Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted six months ago. In addition, some U.S. policymakers in Washington have resisted supplying these weapons because of concerns that it could escalate conflict with Russia.

The congressman, who spoke to NBC News, also said that there is still an ongoing discussion about the types and number of missiles to be given to Ukraine. According to The Washington Post’s sources, the Biden administration is leaning toward giving Ukraine versions of ATACMS armed with cluster submunitions rather than a single warhead.

The U.S. Defense Department has more “cluster” versions of ATACMS than missiles with a unitary warhead. However, such missiles are no longer considered an advanced U.S. weapon. According to U.S. Department of Defense reports, by the early 1990s, the U.S. military had 2,500 cluster-type ATACMS missiles. An unknown number were later fitted with unitary warheads. However, a sufficient number of old-style missiles remain in stockpiles.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the U.S. has refused to provide the AFU with certain types of weapons, but has gradually changed its position on these issues. The White House initially rejected requests for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, howitzers, anti-ship missiles and HIMARS systems, but later approved their delivery.

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