WASHINGTON — Ukraine is now using long-range U.S. missiles, known as ATACMS, on the battlefield.
The announcement, shared by President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in his nightly address, followed reported strikes on Russian positions earlier in the day — including on an airfield in occupied Berdyansk.
“ATACMS [Army Tactical Missile Systems] have proven themselves,” Zelenskyy said.
Unlike other security assistance sent to Ukraine, these weapons were not discussed publicly before arriving and being put to use. Had such an announcement been made, said a Pentagon official, granted anonymity to speak candidly, Russian forces would have been able to pull their positions behind the missiles’ reach.
According to the official, the ATACMS provided have a range of just over 100 miles, shorter than other versions of the system, which can hit targets up to 180 miles away. The ATACMS being sent, too, are designed to fire cluster munitions, according to the Associated Press. Such munitions release dozens of smaller bomblets before hitting a target and were first given to Ukraine by the Biden administration in July.
Funding for the ATACMS, according to the official, came in the last assistance package sent to Ukraine, totaling $200 million.
The arrival of ATACMS marks the end of an era for Kyiv, having lobbied for the missiles since shortly after the war began. Some critics of the Biden administration argue that the White House has been overly cautious — deciding against sending specific systems or munitions before ultimately relenting.
Perhaps no system required more no’s before arriving at a yes than ATACMS, denied at first due to concerns about escalating the war with Russia.
President reportedly promised to send the weapons to Zelenskyy last month, during a visit to Washington by the Ukrainian president.
Having used them on the battlefield, Ukrainians will now hope ATACMS will help jolt their efforts to breach Russian defensive lines. After showing some promise late in the summer, the counteroffensive has since stalled.
Ukraine already has long-range missiles: the British-supplied Storm Shadow, with a range of 155 miles. Fired air-to-ground, these missiles present a greater risk to the Ukrainians using them.
Meanwhile, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), who has long pushed the administration to provide ATACMS to Ukraine, said in a statement that he was not satisfied by the announcement.
Without the longer-range variant of the weapons, McCaul said “Congress won’t let up pressure on the Biden administration.”