Several news reports revealed that the United States intends to supply Ukraine with long-range ATCAM missiles, which are capable of carrying cluster munitions.
NBC news quoted three US officials and a congressional official as saying that President Joe Biden informed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that Washington will supply ATCAM to Kiev.
The Washington Post also quoted sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, that discussions about approving these missiles reached national security agencies and committees in the US House of Representatives.
Kiev has long requested to obtain ATCAM missiles to support in targeting and disrupting supply lines, air bases and train networks in the territories under Russian control.
The White House, however, hasn’t yet announced any decision regarding the missiles, despite announcing a military aid package for Kiev worth $325 million, on the sidelines of Zelensky’s visit to Washington, Thursday, to hold talks with Biden.
A Russian official announced, on Friday, that Crimea was subjected to an unprecedented electronic attack, hours after a Ukrainian bombing targeted the general headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, located in the center of the city of Sevastopol on the peninsula that Moscow annexed.
In regards to the ATCAM missiles, the range reaches about 190 miles (about 306 km), which is twice the range of the Soviet-era OTR-21 Tochka missiles that Ukraine possesses, according to the Washington Post.
This range allows Kiev to hit command positions, ammunition depots, and logistical routes behind the front lines, behind which Russian forces are taking cover.
Lockheed Martin is the missile manufacturer, and manufactures 500 units of the system annually, but it’s mainly intended for countries other than Ukraine.
These missiles carry WDU18 warheads, weighing 500 pounds (about 227 kilograms).
According to Lockheed Martin, “the ATCAM surface-to-surface tactical missile system is capable of hitting targets beyond the range of army cannons and other missiles”.
The ATCAM missiles are launched from MLRS M270 and M270A1 launchers, and these missiles were tested in several arenas such as in the Gulf war, as they were very successful when they used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The Washington Post reported that the ATCAM system can be armed with cluster munitions, which is scheduled to be delivered to Ukraine, is capable of spreading hundreds of small bombs over a wide area.
Cluster munitions have a bad reputation, as they can be indiscriminate and cause civilian deaths due to unexploded ordnance.
The Pentagon opposed supplying ATCAM to Ukraine, due to fears that the system would fall into Russia’s hands.
The Washington Post reported that the reason for fears of an escalation of the conflict after the delivery of this type of weapons to Kiev was in light of Moscow’s statements that the move would represent crossing the red line.
The United States has a fixed stock of ATCAM missiles, which means that sending part of it to Ukraine without manufacturing more quickly will reduce the US stock.
The ATCAM missiles have the capabilities to hit distant targets.
The administration of US President Joe Biden intends to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles armed with cluster bomb munitions instead of single warheads, according to what the Washington Post quoted informed sources as saying.
But the ATCAM armed with cluster bomb type is relatively available in the United States, which makes supplying it to Ukraine a more reasonable solution.
The US President announced in May 2022 that Washington won’t provide Kiev with missiles that can strike Russia, however, now it seems that the situation has changed and the ATCAM missile system will be eventually sent to Ukraine.
This comes at a time when Kiev is making slow progress in its counterattack, which it began last June against Russian forces, with the aim of liberating the occupied areas.