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White House, Ukrainian military confirm provision of ATACMS to Ukraine

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 17, 2023 11:10 PM 3 min read
A screenshot of an ATACMS launch on Oct. 17, 2023. (Valerii Zaluzhnyi/Telegram)
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The U.S. has provided Ukraine with Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMS), the White House confirmed on Oct. 17, after the Ukrainian military said it had used them for the first time on the battlefield.

"We believe these ATACMS will provide a significant boost to Ukraine's battlefield capabilities without risking our (US) military readiness," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

According to Watson, the ATACMS sent to Ukraine have a range of 165 kilometers. Newer variations of ATACMS have a maximum range of around 300 kilometers.

Watson neither specified the exact number of ATACMS provided to Ukraine nor when the U.S. transferred them.

She also made no reference to their recent use by the Ukrainian military to target Russian airfields in occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk, which marked the first time they have been used on the battlefield in Ukraine.

However, according to Politico, the White House reportedly made the final decision to transfer ATACMS to Ukraine in August, and the weapons were secretly part of a military aid package for Ukraine announced on Sept. 21.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and then-Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley were reportedly hesitant about sending the ATACMS to Ukraine, due to concerns that the U.S. did not currently possess a large enough stockpile should another conflict erupt somewhere else.

The medium-range variant that the U.S. ended up sending, the older Anti-Personnel/Anti-Material (APAM), was considered a compromise that would increase Ukraine's striking ability without compromising U.S. stockpiles of newer ATACMS.

Despite the shorter range, the APAM variant will be able to strike the numerous Russian armor and munitions depots, command and control centers, and logistics that are massed close behind the front lines.

The first battlefield usage of ATACMS on Oct. 17 did precisely this, reportedly destroying nine helicopters, an air defense system, an ammunition warehouse, and other airfield infrastructure.

Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi shared a video earlier on Oct. 17 showing the ATACMS being launched in Ukraine.

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A video shared by Ukraine's Armed Forces on Oct. 17, 2023, which it says shows ATACMS in use in Ukraine. (Valery Zaluzhnyi/Telegram)

In his evening address on Oct. 17, President Volodymyr Zelensky also confirmed that the Ukrainian military used U.S.-provided ATACMS on the battlefield.

Debates and premature announcements about the U.S.' delivery of ATACMS to Ukraine have been regularly reported for months, but no official date was ever announced.

Their delivery was deliberately kept secret, unnamed officials told CNN earlier on Oct. 17, because they were concerned that Russian forces would move equipment out of the missile's range if they knew when they would arrive.

Washington has repeatedly resisted sending ATACMS to Ukraine, citing the fear of escalation and the U.S. military's alleged shortage of such weapons.

Meanwhile, the U.K. and France provided Ukraine with their own Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles, respectively.

US will reportedly give ATACMS to Ukraine. Will it change the war?
After over a year of pleading to get long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) from the U.S., Ukraine might finally receive this much desired weapon. Though to Ukraine’s disappointment it was not included in the latest military aid package worth $325 million announced by Washington on Sept.…

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