New ATACMS in Ukraine: How Will It Impact the Russian War?

Ukraine's new ATACMS missiles reshape the battlefield, posing a strategic challenge to Russian forces and their war objectives.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

The US is immediately sending weapons to Kyiv. This decision, announced by President Joe Biden on April 24 at the White House, is backed by a significant $95 billion law for aid and weapons to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The approval of this package, long delayed but finally secured, is a testament to the broad bipartisan support it garnered, indicating that this decision was made for the greater good. As anticipated by Politico and later confirmed by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the United States has already secretly sent long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine.

“I can confirm, as you’ve heard from others, that the president has directed his team to provide Ukraine with a significant number of Atacms missiles to be used within Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” Sullivan stated, adding that “we will send more now that we have additional authority and funding.” According to Politico, citing three different sources, Kyiv has already used them twice. The Atacms, with a range of about 260 kilometers and thus capable of reaching Russian territory, were strongly requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Biden’s Signing and Speech

“Now we need to move quickly, and we will,” said the American President after signing the bill, adding that the United States will send to Kyiv the assistance it needs to continue fighting.

“I will ensure that the shipments begin immediately,” Biden stated at the White House. “In the coming hours, we will start sending ammunition for air defense, artillery, missile systems, and armored vehicles… This package is an investment not only for Ukraine’s security but also for Europe and our own security,” he emphasized.

The US president referred to the fact that this law comes after many months since his request for funding last fall. “The path to my desk has been difficult; it should have arrived earlier, but in the end, America did what it always does: it rose to the occasion,” he stressed. However, he didn’t miss taking a dig at the Republicans who had held up aid for Kyiv.

“While for months Republicans blocked aid, and Ukrainians ran out of artillery and ammunition, Putin’s friends kept him well supplied,” he emphasized. “Iranians sent drones, North Korea sent ballistic missiles, China sent components to bolster weapons production. With all this support, Russia resumed attacks on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.”

Message to Putin

Regarding Moscow, “If Putin attacks a NATO ally as he is attacking Ukraine, we would have no choice but to come to their aid, as they did with us on September 11,” Biden said, referring to Article 5 of the NATO collective defense, invoked only after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington by Al Qaeda. The American President expressed his belief that if “Putin succeeds in Ukraine, his next move would be a direct attack on a NATO ally.”

New Atacms missiles: how it changes the war

Ukraine had been requesting long-range missiles for months. Now, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wish has been granted by the United States: Kyiv has already begun receiving Atacms missiles to strike deep into Russia in the ongoing war that has lasted for over two years. 

The ‘Surprise’ Package

However, the Atacms missiles were already secretly delivered to Kyiv earlier this month as part of a package authorized on March 12 for $300 million, with little public attention. It was a seemingly limited supply.

“It was not announced that we are providing Ukraine” with the new Atacms “because operational security for Ukraine was desired, as requested,” explained Colonel Garron Garn, Pentagon spokesman. Essentially, Kyiv requested discretion in handling the ‘mini-package.’ Therefore, it’s highly likely that the new missiles have already been used against Russia.

Differences Between the Old and New Atacms

Last autumn, the United States sent Ukraine the ‘mid-range’ version of the missiles, capable of hitting targets about 160 km away. Now, the new Atacms can change the situation on the ground as they can be launched over 300 km away. The characteristics of these weapons have allowed Ukraine to adopt a different approach in an extremely complicated conflict over the past six months.

Kyiv forces have been forced to give ground along the eastern front due to inferiority in terms of personnel and ammunition. Now, the new Atacms can provide greater coverage for the Ukrainian army and can complicate Moscow’s plans, which in recent months have been free to strike Ukrainian cities almost daily with heavy raids.

Spotlight on Eastern Ukraine

Russia continues to press, gaining ground in the Ocheretyne area, where a railway hub and the village of Novobakhmutivka are particularly important. Moscow forces have also tried to take positions in the Chasiv Yar area, about 40 km further north, but have been repelled for now.

Putin’s Plan in Light of the New Weapons

“Moscow has not changed its position on creating a buffer zone to protect Russian cities from missiles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU),” said Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, on April 24.

When asked about the West’s supply of long-range ATACMS missiles to Kyiv, the Kremlin representative was reminded that it had previously been stated that the more long-range weapons Ukraine receives, the further Russia will be forced to advance the buffer zone.

“Yes, nothing changes in this regard,” confirmed the Kremlin representative.

He added that the issue of long-range weapons and potential attacks on areas where they are concentrated “is the responsibility of the armed forces. We are not qualified to say anything about it,” sidestepping operational details.


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