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The Biden Administration is close to authorizing the shipment of longer-range missiles packed with cluster bombs to Ukraine, Reuters reported on Sept. 11.
Citing unnamed US officials, the new missiles would allow Ukrainian forces to inflict significant damage deeper within Russian-occupied territory.
The US previously sent cluster munitions inside 155 mm artillery rounds. After the success of these munitions, the Biden administration decided to consider sending either or both Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that can fly up to 190 miles (306 km), or Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles with a 45-mile range packed with cluster bombs.
ATACMS are designed for deep territory targets and could attack command and control centers as well as air defenses and logistics sites deep within Russian territory. The Biden Administration has struggled with decision to send ATACMS as it could be perceived, due to the longer-range target capabilities of the missiles, as an unnecessary escalation with Russia. Despite this, Kyiv has consistently asked the US to help attack Russian supply lines, air bases, and rail networks in Russian occupied territory.
The 155 mm artillery rounds Ukraine currently deploys have a maximum range of 18 miles, carrying up to 48 bomblets. The new ATACMS could propel up to 300 or more bomblets while the GMLRS rocket system would disperse up to 404 cluster munitions.
According to one of the sources cited in the Reuters report, American officials believe that ATACMS and GMLRS could make a critical defense for Ukrainian forces currently attempting to push through Russian front lines "just south of the city of Orikhiv in an attempt to divide Russian forces and put its main supply lines under threat."
It is not yet certain whether President Biden will decide to send the weapons.